June 2013 Archives

Top Five Things to Know About Child Support

The most important thing to know is that you can and most likely will be sent to jail if you don’t pay regularly and on time.  Debtors’ prisons are still open in Texas for people who fail to follow a court order for payment of child support.  You can be held in jail until you have either paid all the back support you owe or worked out a payment plan to get the arrearage paid which has been approved by the court.The second most important thing: don’t make any deals with your ex-spouse about the child support you owe.  That won’t work.  Money you give directly to your kids or to your ex-spouse will not count toward compliance with your child support order.  Agreements you make with your ex-spouse do not rise to the level of a court order and are unenforceable.  Always pay exactly in the manner specified in the court order.  Your best bet is to submit to an Employer’s Order and have your child support payment withheld from your paycheck and sent to the San Antonio child support collection agency, which will take it from there.The State of Texas will pursue you independently to collect unpaid child support you owe and unpaid medical expenses you may owe for your child, even if your ex-spouse doesn’t want that to happen.You will be ordered to pay interest on the arrearage, which will be added to the amount of past-due child support you already owe.You will be ordered to pay the attorney’s fees your ex-spouse incurs in pursuing collection of the back child support you owe, which will also be added to your arrearage.There are solutions for you.  If you are behind in payment of child support, or are worried you may fall behind, we can help you.  The sooner you call, the sooner the solution will take effect.  The court can retroactively reduce the amount of support, but only back to the date you filed a motion asking the court for help.  If your ex-spouse is willing to work with you, your agreement can be turned into a court order superseding the original child support order.Talk to one of our Board Certified divorce attorneys so you can get back on track, and avoid a mounting arrearage.

How Much Will I Owe for Child Support?

The Texas Legislature enacted statutes governing the calculation of child support.  The law requires that both parents contribute to the support of their child, to the extent of the actual proven needs of the child, based on their respective abilities to pay, and taking into account the amount of nonmonetary support each parent may provide.  All of that can be complicated, so in most cases courts follow the “percentage amount” in determining the amount to the paid.The percentage amount suggested by the legislature calls for the non primary parent to pay the custodial parent 20% of his or her “net resources” up to a maximum of $7,500.00 per month if there is one child.  The percentage goes up by 5% for each additional child.  These percentages are reduced if the parent paying child support is already paying support for children from another relationship.  The laws set out the various types of income and cash flow which comprise net resources.  Salary is included, rental income, interest and dividend income, retirement pay, social security and many other forms of cash flow.  Certain deductions from the gross amount are permitted, but not everything being withheld from your paycheck can be subtracted when determining your net resources (such as contributions to a retirement plan, or excessive withholding for federal income taxes).  The income of a new spouse is never considered.Divorcing couples have wide latitude to come up with a plan for child support, provided both parties agree to the plan.  Absent agreement, the court can order any provisions for support of the child that it deems in the best interest of the child.  When both parents have approximately equal possession of the child, but one parent has a greater income, the court may order the parent with the greater income to pay an amount of child support based on the difference between the net resources of the parents.Generally, child support payments continue until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever is later.  If the initial support order included two or more children, the amount may be reduced as each child cycles out of eligibility.  Child support orders can be changed periodically as circumstances change (perhaps loss of employment), and can continue into a disabled child’s adulthood.  The court retains jurisdiction over the child and the parents as long as the child is eligible for support.At the firm of Puhl and Berbarie, we help many people achieve necessary and desirable changes in child support orders. For more information, talk to one of our divorce attorneys today.

Tax & Other Important Factors Regarding Child Support

We understand you are going to have many questions about child support, which we can answer.  For instance, child support payments are not taxable to the recipient.  If you are receiving child support, you do not need to report those payments as income on your federal income tax return.  That makes the payments more valuable to the one receiving them and more expensive for the one paying child support.Another consideration is the tax exemption available for each child, which can be a valuable tax-saving asset.  State courts have no jurisdiction over federal income tax matters, and so your Texas judge does not have the power to decide which parent is entitled to the tax exemption.  As long as both parents agree, provisions for the allocation of the tax exemptions can be included in your agreed court order.  It is usually a mistake to make any agreements about these tax exemptions except on a year-to-year basis, because circumstances are almost certain to change as the years go by, while the agreement will be unchangeable.  The only exception to that rule is when YOU are the person receiving the right to claim the exemption in all future years.When both parents file separate income tax returns claiming the exemption on the same child, the IRS will eventually look into it.  Typically, the IRS will either decide in favor of the parent with primary custody of the child or the parent who has provided more than 50% of the cost of supporting the child.As one’s income goes up the value of claiming the exemption begins to phase out.  There may also be certain tax advantages for a working custodial parent, associated with the cost of child care.  All of these factors need to be taken into consideration to maximize the value of these various items, so as to make the most dollars possible available for your child.If you have any additional questions or concerns, our experienced divorce attorneys are here to help.
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