Someone recently wrote to me and asked me to post about my views on “parenting time adjustments to child support”. The writer wasn’t very clear on what he meant by this, so I will just comment generally. Side note, it is nice to hear from someone out there that actually reads my posts. Sometimes it feels like I’m talking to the air.
As a general rule, child support and parenting time are separate issues. In other words, just because parent A refuses to allow parent B to see the child does not give parent B the right to stop making child support payments. And, vice versa.
Texas has standard guidelines that are presumed to apply. That refers to the standard possession schedule and the standard child support guidelines. When a situation deviates from the standards, the court has discretion as to how to apply the guidelines. But, the analysis in each case begins with the application of the standard possession schedule and the standard guidelines for child support. So, in a case where one parent has primary possession and the other parent has the standard possession schedule, it is presumed that the parent with the standard possession schedule will pay child support according to the standard guidelines (i.e., 20% for one child, 25% for two, etc.)
Child support can, however, be adjusted up or down based on the amount of time a child spends with each parent. On the one hand, if parent B fails to exercise his or her parenting time, leaving parent A with 100% of the responsiblities of caring for the child, the court may award additional amounts of child support to parent A.
On the other hand, if parent A and parent B have a split of time that is roughly equal, the court may take that equal split in account in whether to apply the standard child support guidelines. I’ve seen courts handle a 50/50 parenting time split in two ways. First, where the parents make roughly equal incomes, I’ve seen courts call it “even” on child support and make no specific award. Then, I’ve also seen it where there is a disparity of earning capacity between the parents. In such a situation, courts will usually calculate what each parent would owe the other in a traditional scenario and net out the difference.
The bottom line is that the judges have discretion to enter orders taking into account the child’s best interest — as the judge views the best interest. A judge will almost never be wrong in applying the guidelines, even if the parenting time differs from the standard schedule. Whether a judge is simply taking the easy route by applying the guidelines, or whether some other factors enter into the decision, the standard guidelines are presumed to apply. Likewise, a judge will almost never be wrong for deviating from the standard guidelines where the possession schedule also deviates from standard.
Hope that answers the question………….