“Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler” and The Baby: When Good Times Roll into Child Support Obligations

By: E.A. Putman

“Laissez les bon temps rouler!”

You hear this phrase being overused primarily once a year. It’s synonymous with beads, King Cake and brass band music.  I bleed Purple and Gold and after living in Baton Rouge for a few years, there are a few things I know are taken very serious in the State of Louisiana–LSU Football, New Orleans Saints and Mardi Gras.

One of the most iconic items to symbolize Mardi Gras is the King cake. The King cake of the Louisiana generally comes in a ring of twisted cinnamon roll-style dough topped with icing or sugar in the Mardi Gras colors of green, yellow, and purple.

KingCakeAdvert
King Cake from Acadian Bakery on West Alabama.

[Prior to choking hazards] A small plastic or porcelain baby was hidden in the king cake to symbolize baby Jesus. Tradition has it the person who gets the piece of cake with the baby has various privileges and obligations including being crowned “king” and bringing the next years King cake.

Euphemistically speaking: Mardi Gras. It’s a fun and festive holiday. Letting the Good times Roll. You grab a slice of cinnamon roll topped with icing and sugar and now, you have the baby.

It happens.

While getting the Mardi Gras King cake baby only comes with the obligation to provide the pastry for the party next season, the obligation of having a baby, a child begins much sooner. Financially speaking, in Texas Family Law, either or both parents have an obligation to support a child until the child is 18 years of age, until graduation from high school or a few other circumstances that will be addressed in a future blog post.

When good times roll into child support obligations, a parent may wonder, “what exactly IS my obligation?”

You can Google “Texas Child Support” and it will populate a myriad of generic Q&A’s such as “What is standard child support in Texas?” or “Can parents agree to no child support in Texas?” or “Does Mother income affect child support?” These are questions that can be answered during a consultation with a Texas family law attorney, through legal aid, or even Google. But, what about the Google search for the questions that “keep it real?” Where are those answers? In the spirit and response to Mardi Gras’ most overused phrase, “Qui cher.”

Below are ten real life Questions regarding Child Support Obligations with Answers directly sourced and cited from the Texas Family Code.

[TFC=Texas Family Code; CP=Custodial Parent; NCP=Noncustodial Parent]

  1. My child will turn 18 at the beginning of their senior year in high school. Will the NCP still be required to pay child support? It depends. A court may order the parent to provide child support past the 18th birthday of the child to be paid only if the child is enrolled in high school, private school or a dual credit high school/ college program. TFC Sec. 154.002. Note: Kiddo must be going after his/ her secondary degree. 
  2. We want to keep the government out of our business. Will the court just allow us to use Venmo for child support payments?  It depends. If the case is a IV-D case (Attorney General) the court shall order the payment of child support to the state disbursement unit. Furthermore, the state case registry shall maintain records of child support orders in other cases in which a child support order has been established. TFC Sec. 154.004 and 234.001. Note: For a NCP, paying through the state registry is the best documentation of a paper trail for child support payments.
  3. We are in a good place right now, so even though child support is ordered, the NCP and I decided we don’t want the money taken out of his/ her check. Is it possible for them to pay the state registry directly? Yes, so long as the child support order contain a provision for income withholding to ensure that withholding may be effected if a delinquency occurs. TFC Sec. 154.007. Note: Because what happens when y’all are not in a good place anymore and then NCP stops depositing those checks in the registry. The withholding alternative is a good way to prevent a delinquency. 
  4. I recently got served with child support papers, but the CP has not been allowing me to see my child. Can I enter into an agreement that says I only pay when I get to see my child? No.  A court may not render an order that conditions the payment of child support on whether the CP allows a NCP to have possession of or access to a child. TFC Sec. 154.011. Note: There are appropriate remedies for denying a parent possession and access to a child in violation of the court order, withholding child support is not one. 
  5. I was sending in more than the child support payment amount. What happens to my “extra” payments? If the NCP pays child support in excess of the obligation and does not express an intent for the “extra” payments, the payments will be credited to the future child support payments and disbursed to the CP. TFC Sec. 154.014. Note: Knowingly sending in extra child support payments is a personal choice. But, note, the Office of Attorney General does not hold money like a checking account. 
  6. I was taken to court for child support right after Hurricane Harvey when I was doing a lot of overtime for construction. They included all of those hours in determining my child support obligation, but that’s not my normal pay. Can they do that?! Yes. Child support obligation is based, not on income, but on your net resources which includes: all wage and salary income and other compensation for personal services including commissions, overtime pay, tips, and bonuses. Note: The more you make, the more child support you will be obligated to pay. However, the guidelines are just that. Guidelines. The Putman Firm has successfully argued a deviation from the guidelines based on an individuals circumstances. 
  7. My new spouse is concerned that their salary will be taken into account in determining my child support obligation. Is this accurate? No, the court may not consider any portion of the net resources of a spouse in order to calculate the amount of child support to be ordered. TFC Sec. 154.069. Note: Your spouses income is relatively safe when it comes to your child support obligations, unless you owe back child support and you and your spouse file your taxes jointly. 
  8. My child’s other parent was served with child support papers, but hasn’t responded. Looks like we are going to have a default hearing, but I don’t know where they work or how much they earn. How will the court calculate child support? In the absence of evidence of a party’s resources  the court shall presume that the party has income equal to the federal minimum wage for a 40-hour week to which the support guidelines may be applied. (Current federal minimum wage is $15,080 annually). Note: An obligation for one child without any other children to support will require the NCP to pay approximately $220/month in child support. 
  9. We have an agreement for child support that is more/less than the guidelines. Will a court accept this agreement? It depends. The CP and NCP may enter into a written agreement containing provisions for support of the child and the court shall render an order in accordance with the agreement if the court finds that the agreement is in the child’s best interest. TFC Sec. 154.124. Note: After September 1, 2018, if the parties agreed to an order under which the amount of child support dif­fers from the amount that would be awarded under the child support guidelines, the court may modify the order only if the circumstances of the child or a person affected by the order have materially and substantially changed since the order was rendered.
  10. It’s 2020 and I just found out I fathered a 12 year old and, in addition to being put on child support, I am being asked to pay retroactive child support for all these years. WTF? First, the court must do a few things and will do a few things. The Court Must: consider the dad’s net resources during the relevant time period and determine if mom attempted to notify the dad or if the dad had knowledge of his paternity. The court must also consider if retroactivity will impose an undue financial hardship on dad or dad’s family. Next, The Court Will: presume that limiting the amount of retroactive support to a period of four years preceding the lawsuit is filed is reasonable and in the best interest of the child. TFC Sec. 154.131. Note: The four year cap is only a presumption  and may be rebutted if mom proves that dad knew or should have known he was the father and was dodging getting on child support papers…Dad, hire a lawyer.1Eronn A. Putman is Your Family Law Attorney

The Putman Firm, PLLC is a family law litigation firm that handles a wide array of child support matters including child support establishment, modification, enforcement and defense. If you or someone you know has been served child support enforcement papers, it is important you act immediately or a capias could be issued for you. If you need child support assistance in any form, contact The Putman Firm, PLLC at (281) 501-9033 or schedule a consultation with Your Family Law Attorney.

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