Whose income is the child support based off of?

By Rachel A. Brucks

Attorney, Cordell & Cordell

Child support is one of the most frequently asked about topics when it comes to divorce. Particularly in this economy, divorced dads want to know if they will have to pay more child support if their ex-wife or their ex’s new husband is unemployed and needs to find supplemental income.

So if your ex-wife’s husband loses his job, can she request more child support from you based on her new spouse’s drop in income? Whose income is child support based off of anyway?

It is best to view child support as your contribution to the child’s portion of the shelter, utilities, food, clothing, and health expenses at your ex’s home, even if it is a small contribution to the child’s overall lifestyle. If your ex decides to provide your daughter with gifts and vacations above and beyond basic living conditions, it is in her prerogative to do so.

In most states, your child support obligation remains the same percentage of your income, regardless of whether or not your ex has an increase or decrease in her own lifestyle. Because your child support obligation is normally based off of your income, if your income has gone up significantly since the divorce, the Court may order you to pay additional child support.

Conversely, if your income has decreased significantly because of the economy, or if you have had additional children that you are obligated to support since the divorce, the Court may lower your child support obligation. The Court’s main concern is always the best interest of the child. However, so many judges heavily weigh whether or not lowering child support will negatively affect the child.

In Texas, where I practice, the custodial parent’s (usually your ex’s) income is rarely a factor when determining how much the child support obligor (you) should pay. Occasionally, if the custodial parent makes a substantial income (for example, over $500,000) and the obligor makes less than the poverty line (so therefore the support amount is putting a significant strain on the finances of the obligor) then the court may lower, but not do away with, the obligor’s child support obligation below the standard minimum.

Again, this is a very rare circumstance. Each state generally follows a minimum guideline or percentage amount that the obligor is required to pay in child support, regardless of the custodial parent’s income. The reason is because child support is used to support the child, not the ex spouse.

In situations where the custodial parent is married to a new spouse who has a significant income or a significant amount of resources, the courts in Texas and many states cannot take into account the new spouse’s income when determining the amount of child support.

The only incomes that can be taken into account are the incomes of the parents of the child. Similarly, if the obligor (you) remarries a wealthy spouse, the Court cannot take the obligor’s spouse’s income into account when setting child support either.

To get an estimate on how much child support you will have to pay, or should be paying, visit our child support calculator page. To calculate child support, click on the state where the litigation is taking place. A new window will open with the child support calculator.

Keep in mind that these numbers are only rough estimates and should not be considered as determinative in your case.


men's divorce lawyer Rachel BrucksRachel A. Brucks is a Staff Attorney in the Fort Worth, Texas office of Cordell & Cordell where she practices domestic relations exclusively. Ms. Brucks is licensed in the state of Texas. Ms. Brucks received her Bachelors degrees in English and Political Science from the University of Texas at Arlington. She received her Masters in Literature and Gender Studies from Texas State University, San Marcos; and received her Juris Doctor from Southern Methodists University, Dallas.

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9 Comments on "Whose income is the child support based off of?"

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7 months 27 days ago

The income comparison method is ridiculous — there should be a ‘minimum amount’ determined for ALL children… basically, a flat-rate. One which says ‘this is what it costs to provide a child, all children, with basic food clothing and shelter’.

That fixed amount is what the non-custodial parent should be obligated to pay. If the custodial parent chooses to exceed that minimum lifestyle, then that should be their own business.

Bob Grise
9 months 21 days ago

In other words the non custodial parent is always screwed. This monstrosity of a law was first designed to keep mothers off of welfare. We have lost our way….It’s now used to punish men. PERIOD!

rueben velasquez
11 months 25 days ago

hello i am resently divorced and in the army the court has ordered me t pay 953 in child support and that is included with our bah and bas which under federal law cant be garnessed but almost all states do i am asking that the word be spread out to fight this injustice for our nations hero s make it to where child support for military is based on their base pay and not their bah and bas or hazard duty pay

2 years 1 month ago
Sugar DaddyFather has custodial. Mother ordered to pay child support. Has not paid consistently unless we file a motion to enforce. She pays what the judge orders to stay out of jail. Is unemployed. Quit her job 1 month after she lost custodial and was ordered to pay child support. Is financially supported by her “boyfriend” and has stated in court that he will not allow her to use his money to pay child support. That he monitors the bank online to see where she spends and monitors the attorney general website to make sure she is not using his… Read more »
7 months 27 days ago
You realize that you will probably never receive the money, and move on. The child support system, although it has large teeth, can easily be gamed. Frankly, it creates more problems with parents being able to co-parent, then it does good. My advice to you is realize that the money is something you expected, not something you are guaranteed to receive. Frankly, you should ask the question — is this money from her actually necessary? Is it worth subjecting them to suspension of their driver’s license, and passports, business licenses, hunting fishing and other recreational license, garnishing up to 50%… Read more »
Jared Wyatt
2 years 6 months ago
woahI am from Texas, where my daughter was born and her mother is from California. My daughter lived in Texas for a year and a half after she was born when my ex decided to up and move to Colorado after i had filed child support on myself. Her excuse for not informing me on why she left was due to information received by an attorney that stated, i was only filing to evoke a geographical restriction on her and that she needed to leave swiftly. I am not legally bound to pay monetary support for my daughter, but do… Read more »
michelle bone
2 years 7 months ago

Sorry for the missed of words or the words in the wrong place…My computer is messed up and messes up words…But u should get my problem

michelle bone
2 years 7 months ago
new wife and confusesI agree with u dadsdivorced. I never got support from my sons dad and he never saw my son SO I SUPPORTED my son(his now 15) I just got married to a man who pays support for his 15 year old which is court ordered and he pay to support his youngest son with hasn’t been court ordered yet but has been paying the baby momma for 14 mos the same amount as the older son…We have filed for legitimation,half custody,visitation, and last name change to ours and to set child support…Baby momma said to as how… Read more »
6 years 1 month ago

Child Support is a must for women
Men have to pay Child Support to their ex-wifes or girlfriends (or whatever), how else could they sit at home with the kids & be “independent women”? They’re lazy, inconsiderate, worthless that find a sugar daddy on the side, grab as much welfare as possible (food stamps, actual welfare, etc) so that they (the woman) doesn’t have to work again, after all, isn’t it easier to live off someone else than actually get off your @** & get a job?