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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12 comments on “Whose income is the child support based off of?

    I’m in a situation where my son turned 18 and the state of Texas closed the order since he wasn’t sure about going to college. I didn’t owe any back child support. Now, my ex wants to to take me back to reopen the order because my son has decided to go to college.

    Issue is, my wife is active duty military and we are stationed overseas and, due to not speaking the language, I have been unable to find employment in the year we have been here. I send him what we can to help him out, but it is not the amounts like when I was making $80k a year in the states. I had not choice but to leave my job when we were transferred and the loss of that kind of income is a big hit for both sides

    So I just wonder if it can be reopened after being closed?

    Luckily, due to me also being a vet, he goes to school completely free with the Hazelwood Act, so that is a blessing. In addition to grants, he really doesn’t want for anything living in the dorm and a meal plan.

    I think a lot of it is the ex is having a hard time adjusting to the loss of child support for when I was making that money and is still supporting a second child from another guy who is in jail and doesn’t pay anything.

    I just prefer to send him what I can instead of sending it to her to support another kid.

    I’m in an unusually situation. My child support papers were drawn up with my ex-wife having 60/40 custody and me paying about $1400 a month in child support. She was, to her credit, very reasonable and never actually collected a dime of that, just asked that I pay for all their schooling and clothes and what not. The kids lived with each of us 50% of the time.

    Since then, I’ve taken full custody with her having them wednesday nights and every other weekend. We’ve both remarried and I’ve never asked her for a dime. Our paperwork still reflects the 60/40 split, with me oweing her, but for the past two years (we’ve been divorced about 3 years), I’ve had full custody.

    Now we’re at a point where we need financial assistance from her, but she doesn’t work and relies on her new husband’s income (which is six figures) to support her. Do I have any recourse here to request some financial support from her? As I said, I pay 100% of the children’s bills and have them full time. OR will this just open the door to her requesting 3 years of back payment, even though I did pay for everything during that time, just not directly to her?

    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.

    But cost of living is significantly different from area to area. Your logic has no grounding. Also, some children have special needs that will be expensive and so forth. Those are the responsibility of both parents. Basic food, clothing and shelter isn’t going to cut it and if you or anyone seriously think that’s all a child needs then YOU should have never had a child.

    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!

    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

    Sugar Daddy
    Father 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 money to pay. What do we do?



    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% of their income, or jailing them, or taking their tax return money?

    If the poverty wage is $ 19,250 and they make less than that — how can you justify taking their ‘basic life sustaining income’ ? If you remove the ‘you are entitled to get money from the non-custodial parent’ mantra from your head, you’ll find that the harm caused to the other parent will indeed negatively impact their ability to parent.

    Focus on time with your kid and their mother, not on the cash you want from them.

    I 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 anyway. 2200 dollars was given to my ex before her swift departure for my daughter, but claims that i did not care that she was applying for welfare because she was looking for employment but could not find it. I assumed since she left so quickly she had a plan on sustaining herself. the money i gave to my ex did not only go to support given to my daughter, but also to pay my ex’s credit card bills and other expenses. since that time i have been paying two hundred dollars a month each month for my daughter and don’t regret a dime. I am in school full time and work part time to support my daughter still. In her eyes i am still seen as a dead beat dad. I love my daughter with all my heart and want nothing more than to be and see that gorgeous smile all that i can. I am moving to Colorado to be closer to my daughter as well. It hurts me to be seen as some greedy, dirty, incapable villain, who doesn’t care about there child nor provides enough for her. I don’t make a lot of money but i do know that a 1/3 of my income is 200 dollars and that is what i have been paying. why is that my ex and her family still feel that i am a dead beat dad, that is taking 15 credit hours of school, working , and saving little to no money to be closer to my daughter. it is very unsettling. she has convinced herself and her family i am not doing my part, when in actuality i am going above and beyond to meet their expectations of what it means to be a good dad. my dad sent 254 dollars a month from me and rarely got to spend time with me because of his many obligations. I never wanted that for my children and believe i’m making a conscious effort to not make that so. I wish someone other than her family could speak to her and tell her that she is wrong about me and that my efforts are good. I’m too modest to say they are great because they aren’t perfect but i am trying so very hard to understand the animosity. I want to be a friend to my ex and her family as well but i’m afraid with the hate they spew, it will be very difficult to do so. if anyone has any advise please comment. or email me jdw09a@acu.edu. I would love some advise on how to cope and handle this very delicate situation.

    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

    new wife and confuses
    I 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 dear us to file for all this. She said all this isn’t in the best intest for the baby and this isn’t about us..She also no longer works and asked why she needed to get a job..She said that she doesn’t want to put the baby in child care and I have offered to watch the baby for free during the day he loves us and loves in at our house…So I hate lazy baby momma..I have worked since I was 15 years old and worked overtime supporting my son now I have medical issues and iam a stay at home mom so I guess baby momma can do the same….If iam offering to watch the baby everyday all day theres no reason she cant work iam not a stranger to my step babies..

    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?

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