I never meant for it to go this far. I was in a relationship that wasn’t going anywhere. After finally mustering the courage to break up, my ex hit me with a bombshell: She was pregnant. Now I make child support payments every month.
I never wanted kids. In fact, I’ve been avoiding fatherhood my whole life. For most people, having a baby is a joyful event celebrated by their whole family. However, for me, I still wasn’t ready to commit.
Unfortunately, accidents happen. Even though I told my ex I didn’t want that baby, she decided to keep it. I called an attorney who provided real advice. He made sure to explain everything to me. I needed to understand my parental rights in Texas and what financial obligations I was expected to fulfill.
Do I Have To Pay Child Support If I Didn’t Want the Child?
If your partner decides to keep your baby, you’ll be financially responsible. According to Texas law, if you’re the dad then you’re on the hook.
What exactly does that mean? For me, it means that child support payments come out of my paycheck every week. On top of that, I have to send my ex money every month for medical and dental expenses. The court may order me to make additional payments for items that include future health care expenses, vacation and camp expenses, and religious costs on top of child support payments.
As my child grows older or my income increases, the court may order me to increase the amount of child support I have to pay.
I can’t believe that I have to support a kid that I never planned for or wanted. My attorney explained that the court wasn’t thinking about me. Their only concern is the welfare of the child and protecting the child’s best interest. The marital status of the parents does not matter.
Child Support Is Required Even If Parents Don’t Have Custody
Even if neither parent has legal or physical custody of the child, the court may still order you to pay child support to the third party caring for the child. Parents still need to contribute towards health care costs, educational needs, and other expenses to bring up a child even if they don’t have custody.
Courts will not allow the non-custodial parent to decide how the child support payment is used. This is because the custodial parent might incur expenses that they do not agree with. If the parents making the payment were allowed to decide how the payment would be used, that could lead to controlling or abusive behavior by one parent.
I couldn’t believe I had to support a kid I never wanted and with no control over how my ex was going to use my money to raise the children. However, some states require custodial parents to provide an accounting of child support expenses upon request from the courts.
When Paternity Is In Question
If you’re the father, you will have the legal responsibility for the children as a parent. Courts will use these two ways to determine this:
- A father’s parentage is established using a paternity test. You can do this in a professional lab for as little as $179. It takes about two days to receive the results.
- The man acknowledges his child by submitting a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form.
You need to verify that you are the daddy before agreeing to or signing anything. In my case, I wasn’t sure that I was the father. I wanted proof. Let’s say that you’re not convinced either. What should you do? In Texas, when a woman is seeking financial support for a baby, paternity must be established before anyone has to pay a dime for the children.
This means that you will need to take a paternity test. Be aware that if you refuse to give a sample for examination, the court will force you to provide one. This involves:
- Going to a lab
- Giving a sample to the technicians
- Waiting for the results
Once the results have arrived, the judge presiding over your case will let you know if it’s time to fork over the money.
Texas Rules for Child Support
I needed to figure out how much I had to pay and for how long. The United States federal government requires all states to have guidelines for child support calculations. In Texas, the amount you’ll have to pay is based on a percentage of your income and expenses, net of social security tax and federal income tax. The court will require you to provide information about your income and assets to determine the financial resources available to you. If there is no information or evidence available, the court will presume that your income is equal to the federal minimum wage for a 40-hour week when calculating your obligations.
The Texas Family Code states guidelines that the paying parent has to pay 20% of his or her net resources for child support. This goes up to 25% for two children, 30% for three children, 35% for four children, and 40% for five children or more.
The judge in my case had the final say on the child support payments. In many cases, they can decide if you must make a lump-sum payment or a periodic payment every month. Payment must be made by parents to the federal or state agencies who will then distribute it to the custodial parent.
Now I will have to pay out until:
- The child is no longer a minor
- The kid joins the military and is on active duty
- Someone else adopts the baby as there will be a termination of parental rights
- The minor child seeks emancipation and proves to the court that they are able to take care of themselves
Child Support Enforcement
Unfortunately, there’s no getting out of it. State child support services can carry out child support enforcement to seek child support payments that you owe. The amount can even be withheld from your paycheck or tax refunds as part of the state child support enforcement law. Parents with over $2,500 in arrears may even be denied certain privileges such as a passport by the U.S. Department of State and be subject to federal prosecution.
The Office of Child Support Enforcement under the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) is the agency in charge of federal child support enforcement in the United States. They can use any resources and remedies available to them to ensure children receive the support they need from either parent.
Even if the non-custodial parent moves to another state, the other parent can rely on the federal Revised Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act to get the non-custodial parent to make their child support payment. The Act provides how a state can enforce a child support order that is issued in another state.
No, leaving the country will not free you of your obligations. Article 27 of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child establishes that support orders in one country are enforceable in another country and the parent can pursue a case via local court processes.
Changes To Child Support Orders
The Texas family court issues child support orders. The judge will apply several guidelines set out in the Texas Family Code to determine the amount of child support required. This is including the income of the non-custodial and custodial parents, the financial resources available for the support of the children, the number of children, and the needs of the children.
However, the state courts may still retain the right to make deviations from the guidelines in any case as long as there are compelling reasons for doing so.
The Texas state courts can also apply changes to child support orders if there is a significant change in circumstances. In many cases, this can include a material change in income of the parents, an increase in the needs of the children, or a change in the cost of living. Children have the right to benefit from the income levels of both parents. However, parents cannot decide to alter child support requirements on their own. Parents have to petition the court and the courts must approve a change to the child support order.
Courts may also allow temporary changes to a child support payment if the non-custodial parent has lost their job, has had a pay cut, or is facing a tight financial situation due to unfortunate circumstances.
The Attorney Can Advise you on Child Support Payments
You need to understand your obligations to your children, even if you don’t plan or want them. Get the help of an attorney and seek legal advice. Let the family law experts at Sean Lynch help you prepare your case. We have decades of experience in Texas family law. Contact us today for a no-cost case review!