We get this question a lot, and not just from fathers. As a biological or adoptive parent, you are required to provide for your children until they reach the 'age of majority'. In Texas, the 'age of majority' is 18. In some cases involving special needs children, the duration for child support can be indefinite.
The amount of time each parent spends with the child will most always be the determining factor for who is to make the child support payments. In most Texas child support cases, it is the “non custodial parent”, the parent who spends the least amount of time with the child, who will be required to make the transfer payment to the “custodial parent”. Even in joint custodial situations, (50/50 parenting plans), it is likely that one parent makes more than the other, and that parent will then be required to make child support payments to the other parent.
With that very basic foundation in place, here are some answers to the most common questions we receive:
My girlfriend had our child but we never married and I don’t see the child. Do I have to pay support?
When a child is born in Texas to unmarried parents, the father will need to sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity (AOP) before he can sign the birth certificate. This acknowledges, legally, that he is the biological father of the newborn child. As the biological father, you are responsible to provide child support. However, let’s assume that you were not aware that she was pregnant and found out several years later that you have a child. In this case, either you or the mother, depending on what your wishes might be, can take legal action. Often, these cases begin with the mother opening a child support case with the Attorney General’s office. In other situations, you may wish to establish paternity so that you have a legal right to custody and visitation. The case will then be heard in front of a judge and, if paternity is in question, it is common for the court to order genetic testing to make a final determination. In the case of child support, If you are found to be the father of the child, you will be ordered to pay child support.
I was a stepparent to our daughter who I have raised since she was 6 months old but now her mother and I are divorcing. Am I required to pay child support?
Unless you legally adopted the child, you are not required to pay child support.
Do I have to pay child support if my ex keeps me away from my kids?
It is important to remember that child support belongs to the child and should not be confused with custody and visitation. While it is illegal for the custodial parent to violate a court order around visitation and custody, you are still required to pay the support when the children are being withheld from you. If you believe your ex is violating the custody and visitation order, we urge you to discuss the situation with a lawyer who can help you to have the order enforced.
I am unemployed and am not able to afford my monthly child support payments. Can I stop paying until I find a new job?
The short answer is ‘no’. If you lose your job and are unable to fulfill your child support obligations, you should immediately notify the Texas Attorney General’s Division of Child Support, where your child support case is managed. However, it is unlikely that you will be relieved of your support obligation, as most courts will calculate a ‘revised’ income for you based on a 40-hour work week at minimum wage. Additionally, if you are receiving unemployment benefits, the state can withhold up to 50% of your benefits to cover your child support obligation.