Child Support Guidelines: Texas

The Family Support Act of 1988 mandates all U.S. states to conduct a review of their child support guidelines every four years. The Texas Family Code also requires this stipulation. At minimum, as stated in the federal act, state guideline reviews should include the most recent data specifying the costs of raising a child and reasons for deviations from the initial child support amount calculated using the states’ guidelines. Furthermore, each state’s child support guidelines must include the earnings and income of noncustodial parents and parents’ abilities to provide healthcare for their children through insurance or other public health insurance programs.

The Texas child support guidelines were established in 1986 and biennial reports that have met the federal reporting requirements have been completed since that time. However, the Texas agency responsible for providing IV-D services, the Texas Office of the Attorney General (OAG), has not conducted a comprehensive review with recommendations for changes to the guidelines since the current model was established. In the Texas’ 82nd legislative session, the legislature passed Senate Bill 716, which mandated that the state conduct a comprehensive review of its current child support guidelines and submit recommendations to the legislature by January 1, 2013.

Dr. Cynthia Osborne and CFRP assisted the OAG in completing the comprehensive review of the Texas child support guidelines.  In addition to the required components, CFRP expanded on previous Texas child support guideline reports by integrating three additional topics: a review of the child support systems and guidelines of other states; an analysis of how various child support guideline recommendations will affect the resources of custodial and noncustodial parents; and articulation of the views and concerns of stakeholders regarding the current guidelines and potential changes to the guidelines.

CFRP employed a multiple-methods approach which included a review of child support models used in other states; observations of court proceedings and negotiations; interviews, focus groups, and surveys of stakeholders; an estimation of the costs of raising a child in Texas; and an analysis of the proportion of child support awards that deviate from the initial calculation.  CFRP provided the OAG the Review of the Texas Child Support Guidelines and Recommendations report in December 2012 after completion of the comprehensive review.

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