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When may a Texas court deviate from child support guidelines?

It goes without saying that raising a child in Texas costs money. Between the basic necessities of life, educational expenses, medical expenses and entertainment expenses, most parents try to provide their child with the highest quality of life they can afford.

Nothing about this changes if a child's parents divorce. Both parents are still responsible for providing financially for the child. The custodial parent implicitly provides for the child's financial needs by caring for them on a day-to-day basis. The noncustodial parent will then usually be ordered to pay child support.

In Texas, child support is calculated using statutory guidelines. The court presumes that following these guidelines is in the best interests of the child. However, there are circumstances in which a deviation from these statutory guidelines might be warranted.

Under Texas law, there are a number of factors that, if proven, may show that a deviation from the statutory child support guidelines is in order. One factor is the age of the child and the child's subsequent needs. Each parent's ability to contribute financially to raising the child may be considered, as may each parent's financial resources. The amount of time the child spends with each parent may be considered. The paying parent's net resources may be considered. If the paying parent is intentionally unemployed or underemployed, the court may consider that parent's earning potential. The amount each parent pays in child care while they are at work may be considered.

Whether either parent has physical custody of another child may be considered. If a parent is paying or receiving spousal support, this may be considered. College expenses incurred by the child may be considered. If either parent has a company vehicle or a home provided by their employer, that may be considered. Health insurance expenses may also be considered, as may any special expenses related to the child's education, health care or other extraordinary expenses incurred by either parent or the child. The costs incurred traveling in order to exercise parenting time may be considered.

These are only some factors the court may consider when deviating from the statutory child support guidelines. In the end, calculating child support is not always as straightforward as it may seem. Parents who think a deviation from the statutory guidelines is warranted may want to seek the advice of an attorney to determine what steps to take.

Source: statutes.legis.state.tx.us, "Family Code - Title 5. The Parent-Child Relationship and the Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship," accessed August 26, 2017

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