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Navigating the end of a relationship is never easy, and it becomes all the more difficult when children are involved. When one parent has primary physical custody, the other typically pays child support. Regardless of the relationship between the parents, establishing or modifying a child support order can be difficult as you try to protect your child’s best interests while creating a plan that works for your life.

At the Ramos Law Group, we have years of experience helping clients in all kinds of family situations. Each child support lawyer here works to empower our clients to take control of their lives and help them heal after difficult events. Supporting our clients means supporting their families, remembering that the core of family law is usually children. 

Who Pays Child Support?

Child support and child custody law tend to go hand-in-hand. Understanding who may owe child support and in what circumstances depends on the fact-specific nature of a couple’s child custody and parental rights.

Child Custody 

There are two types of child custody: physical and legal custody. Physical custody means your child lives with you, making you the custodial parent. Legal custody means you have the right to make important decisions about your child’s life, such as where they live, go to school, and receive medical treatment. You can have joint physical and legal custody, but when parents are not in a relationship, one parent often has primary physical custody while you share legal custody. And parents with a history of abuse or neglect may be denied joint legal custody.

Additionally, one parent but not the other may lose their parental rights or surrender them willingly. A parent without parental rights typically does not pay child support. However, the law makes exceptions for parents of children placed in Child Protective Services (CPS) custody and parents of children conceived through sexual assault.


In Texas, parents have conservatorships that define their custody arrangements, including:

  • Joint Managing Conservatorships (JMCs),
  • Sole Managing Conservatorships (SMCs), and
  • Possessory Conservatorships.

JMCs include parents having shared physical and legal custody as well as one parent having primary physical custody but the parents sharing joint legal custody. In an SMC, one parent typically has sole legal and primary physical custody. Usually, when one parent has an SMC, the other is a possessory conservator with visitation rights but no authority to make decisions for the child.

How Do You Set Up Child Support?

Every parent is legally obligated to support their children until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever comes later. This obligation only ends if the child is emancipated or the parent’s rights are terminated. 

Determining the Payment Amount

Parents can come to an agreement on the terms of child support, or you may request a judge decide the amount. When determining the payment amount, you must follow, at a minimum, Texas’s child support guidelines. A parent with no other children pays 20% of their income to support one child. That number increases by 5% for each additional child up to the fifth child to total 40% of income. 

For child support purposes, income includes:

  • Salaries, wages, tips, overtime, bonuses, and commissions; 
  • Self-employment earnings;
  • Interest or royalties on investments;
  • Social Security Disability (SSDI) and Veterans Affairs (VA) Disability;
  • Unemployment;
  • Retirement; and
  • Worker’s compensation.

However, income excludes:

  • Social Security Income (SSI), 
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits, and 
  • VA pensions.

In Texas, the non-custodial parent must also support the child’s medical and dental care. This is typically done by either providing private health insurance through employment, reimbursing the parent providing health insurance for the child’s portion of the monthly premium, or cash reimbursement if on government-provided insurance. 

Post-Divorce or Separation

When you divorce or separate from someone you share children with, you set child custody and child support. Your child support order may be part of your divorce decree or a separate order. 

Parents Not in a Relationship

When parents were never married or even in a relationship, you typically have to go to court to establish child support. Depending on the relationship between the parents when the child was born and what the birth certificate says, you may first need to establish paternity. If the potential father contests paternity, you may need to go to court and offer DNA evidence.

If the evidence indicates the potential father is the biological father, the court issues a paternity order that may include details about custody, support, and visitation. If evidence indicates the potential father is not the biological father, the court may issue a paternity order declaring that.

How Do You Modify Child Support?

Your child support order takes into consideration the circumstances at the time it is issued. But what happens if circumstances change? Can you modify the order, and how?

When You Can Modify an Order

If you need to modify a child support order, you generally have to request it in court. When you request a change within three years of the original order, you have to show the court that you, the other parent, or the child’s circumstances have “materially and substantially changed” since the order went into effect. If three years have passed since the order or the last modification, you can also ask to modify the order if the payment differs from the child support guidelines by 20% or $100 or more. 

Material and Substantial Changes

Although every case is unique, several situations may indicate circumstances have changed enough to justify a modification:

  • A parent remarries,
  • A parent is incarcerated,
  • A parent is released from incarceration,
  • The custodial parent’s expenses increase,
  • The noncustodial parent’s income decreases or increases,
  • The noncustodial parent has or is established as the parent of another child,
  • Someone else takes physical custody of the child, or
  • The child’s insurance costs increase or decrease.

This list is not exclusive. Proving material and substantial changes typically focuses on the parents’ financial circumstances.

What Happens If You Don’t Pay Child Support?

Child support is a legally enforceable obligation, one employers are required to withhold from a parent’s paychecks. If a parent nevertheless fails to pay child support, the other parent may take the parent to court. A court can order the parent to make missed payments in arrears. If the parent makes a habit of missing payments, the court may even hold the parent in contempt of court.

Where Can You Go for Help?

If you need to establish or modify a child support order, the attorneys at Ramos Law Group can help. We are committed to providing every client with compassion and empathy we would offer our own families. Our founder, Mary E. Ramos, has instilled a dedication to staying educated on legal developments in the field of family law, allowing us to develop forward-thinking case strategies tailored to our clients’ needs. If you need a League City child support attorney, contact us today.

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Our Client Testimonials

Superb Law Firm

The decision to end my 25-year marriage was not an easy one, but hiring the Ramos Law Group was. From the initial consultation to the execution of the Divorce Decree everyone at the firm displayed the utmost professionalism and I was treated as if I was their only client. My attorney Lindsey, always provided precise legal guidance, was usually one step ahead of the opposing counsel, and had a superb understanding of how things would play out in the court room. Additionally, whenever my case needed a little extra horsepower, Mary provided that "surge" to keep things on track.

Worth Every Penny

"Ms. Ramos and her entire staff worked with professionalism and compassion to guide me through the most difficult time of my life and to an outcome that was best for my family and myself. Ramos Law is incredible and I highly, highly recommend their services."

Custody case won

"I was recommended to see Mary Ramos for my on coming custody case,it was the best thing I could've done honestly.The Ramos law group was quick with emailed responses and telephone calls,informative with ANY questions I had and they also took action with what they thought would work,which it did,I had money troubles and they were still willing to help they sent me with a younger lawyer Lindsey Lewis to help save some money and she was the best!She knew what she was doing and Mary was still on my case to make sure things went smoothly and to catch any details Lindsey and I might have missed.All in all I am a very satisfied client and if I ever needed a family lawyer again I would come back.My case was won as I received primary for my daughter which is exactly what I asked for.If you're willing to listen to what they have to say and follow their guidance they're definitely worth hiring.I thought I wanted sole custody for my daughter and they explained that wasn't in the best interest for her and honestly they were right,they speak to you on a professional level and also a real level of how things are actually going to work and what could happen if you take a certain action.They definitely care about their clients and make their own bond with you,you're not just money in their pockets you turn into family. "

Divorce Attorney

"I received excellent advice and representation from Ms. Lindsey Lewis. She kept me updated at every step of the process, and I never felt as if my case was set aside. I would hire The Ramos Law Group in the future. "

Highly recommend

"I started my divorce with a lawyer who was not very responsive. My divorce case was complicated and needed more laborious scrutiny. Since the case was not moving forward I had to switch lawyers. Made the switch to Ramos Law group. Since the very first day Mary and her team have been very efficient and meticulous. Since the case was complicated the team had to go through myriads of pages in discovery. I was pleased with the legal team that helped us handle the paperwork in a very timely manner. All my questions were answered very promptly. The relay of information was easy with their software system. We finally had a law firm that we could trust. My divorce was finalized and I only have Mary and her team to thank for going through a difficult divorce. I would highly recommend the Ramos law group for their help and support for getting my life back on track. "

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