We commonly encounter clients who have a misconception that having equal possession time with the children always results in no child support being owed by either party. However, 50/50 possession is rarely ordered by the Court in a contested proceeding. Further, in our experience, when the Court imposes a 50/50 possession schedule in Travis County, the Court will make the higher-earning party pay offset child support to the lesser-earning party. Offset child support is the difference between what the two parties’ child support obligations would be. This is calculated by applying the appropriate guideline support percentage to both parties’ net incomes, and subtracting the lesser amount from the greater amount, with the difference being the higher-earning party’s obligation.
For example, if there are two children, and Party A’s net income is $1,000, you would apply 25% to $1,000 which would give you $250. If Party B’s net income is $2,000, you would apply 25% to $2,000 which would give you $500. Subtracting $250 from $500 results in Party B having to pay $250 per month to Party A in offset child support.
This calculation is not explicitly set out in the family code, but has instead arisen from common court practice based on application of Texas Family Code section 154.123(b)(4). This authorizes the Court to determine whether the application of guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate under the circumstances considering the amount of time of possession of the child exercised by each party. In light of the fact that this is the most likely outcome in court, it has also become a common outcome in mediation as mediators consider what the court would likely order in this respect.
In more rare occurrences, the court will split possession of the children, giving primary possession of one child to one parent, and primary possession of another child to the other parent. This will usually also result in offset support as discussed above.
If the prospect of not paying child support is motivating or incentivizing you to seek a 50/50 possession schedule, you should consider the likely possibility that even if you are successful in obtaining 50/50 possession, you may still owe support. Likewise, if you do not want 50/50 because you do not want to lose child support, you may still receive child support if you end up with 50/50 possession of the children.
Child support can be very complex, and the calculations may depend on the unique facts of each case. If you need advice regarding child support, please set up a free 30-minute consult and retain our office to help you.