how does the court handle child support when the parents are splitting custody of the kids?

First we need to understand that Joint Managing Conservatorship in Texas is not split custody.  In a typical joint managing conservatorship one party has the right to determine the primary residence of the child and the other parent has visitation.  This post is not for those situations. This post is for parents who have a child an equal amount of time such as week on week off or some other type of 50/50 arrangement.

In this situation the court will calculate what each party would pay the other in child support and take the difference, awarding child support to the parent with the lower income.

For instance, David and Delila Divorce have one child Danny whom they share on a week on week off basis.  The court calculates child support that each would pay the other if the other parent had full custody.  After calculations the Court determines that David would pay $500 and Delila would pay $750 if the other parent had custody.

The court awards David child support of $250 per month ($750 – $500).

The common question in this situation is why there is any child support at all since they both have equal time with the child?  While the dollar amount to raise the child is the same for both parents, there is a disparity in the income of the parties which means that each dollar spent means something different to each parent.

Imagine if Delila made $100,000 per year and David makes $25,000 per year (these are not the numbers I used above for the child support calculation).  $1000 spent on the child to Delila is nothing while the same $1000 for David is a lot.

One party pays the other child support to offset the difference in the parties’ income.  While this might not always seem fair to the person who has to pay child support, it does offset the incomes.

If you are reviewing the Texas Family Code links above for child support, you will not find a statute covering this discussion in there.  This is a typical practice of the Court* and may not always be the case.  In fact, I have handled some cases where the parties do not pay each other any child support, but these were typically agreed cases.

*Note that I practice family law primarily in Dallas and Collin County.


72 Responses to how does the court handle child support when the parents are splitting custody of the kids?

  1. Chris Schmiedeke March 2, 2016 at 8:54 am #

    That is a question that needs to be addressed with an attorney and possibly the Court. It doesn’t sound right, but I do not know all the facts nor have I seen the current order.

  2. Laura J. April 16, 2016 at 6:25 am #

    i have had primary joint custody from the time my twins were 5 years old through now (they are 14). My ex has brainwashed my one son and now he wants to live with his dad. His dad has tried to avoid paying child support the entire time since the divorce. He even went to jail for avoiding payment. He was in arrears $12000. He was put in jail and ended up paying $7000. He now thinks he will avoid paying anything for support. How will they calculate the support?

  3. Roberto Gonzalez July 7, 2016 at 1:14 pm #

    Think you should earn a living for yourself instead of trying to live off an ex until the kids are grown. Because I never heard you say anything about what is best for your child.

  4. Rolando P August 10, 2016 at 7:52 pm #

    Recently went through a divorce. I had to fight just to have 50/50 time with my kids or a better way to say it is my kids get to have their dad in their life more than a visitor. We did mediation to stay out of more court because of expense plus I didn’t have faith in the system and was certain I would lose my kids. When it came down to it, she would only allow 50/50 if i paid full child support. I didn’t like it because I couldn’t afford to do it but was willing to do whatever it took to be in my kids life. Keep in mind nothing happened. No abuse or infidelity. 2 good parents and one was quitting. I now have to work 2 jobs which keeps me from being able to spend time with my kids. My home address is the primary address for the kids because I stayed in the school district. No one is named Primary but I am the one struggling to live, pay child support and take care of my kids when they are with me. Completely unfair and something has to change. I live in one of the counties you practice in. I would like your thoughts because this has to be changed.

  5. amy November 28, 2016 at 1:42 pm #

    My daughters father and I was never married and I have full custody. Me and her father was wanting her to go live with him in Tennessee the remainder of the school year and half of next year. The schools out there will not let her enroll once she goes unless he is the primary. I’m not wanting to give him primary I’m wanting to do 50/ 50. She is 12 years old now and he never once has paid child support wither even though him and his wife brings home more then I do. What steps needs to be done for him only to get half of the custody? We don’t want lawyers but not sure how to file or get a court date and since he is so far away I’m not sure how I will be able to get up there to see her because he will not allow her to get on a plane to fly anywhere.

  6. Jennifer April 26, 2017 at 9:22 pm #

    Hi. My son’s father and I have left the courts out of our situation. He disappeared and I needed money bad. Tough times. I filed for child support 8 months ago. For 3 months of cash aid help. Filing was a stipulation for that help. We both got the court date mixed up. We didn’t show. He just got a notice for court again. I didn’t. In that 8 months my son lived with him for about 3 months. We are now about to live with each other again. I am wondering the best approach to take at court. For 8 yrs I made the money. Couldn’t count on him to do more than babysit. He has improved and gives me money if he can come up with it, when I give him a dollar amount or he calls me randomly and says I have money to give.
    Just wondering how to go about and if I can say that I don’t want to pursue child support. I understand a bill has been created with those 3 months. My son has been on Medicaid most of his life too. Very expensive medicine. Also, he was on my welfare case when my son was younger. I normally have not been on welfare assistance for the majority of my son’s life. I pay everything out of pocket. We agree on equal parental rights. Collin county

  7. Jennifer April 26, 2017 at 9:26 pm #

    Thanks a lot by the way. My son now resides with me again

  8. Nikki O. May 20, 2017 at 6:24 am #

    What if my child doesn’t have his own room at my apartment? My son lives and goes to school where his father is. I have him more though because I only work 3 days a week. Would my husband be more likely to gain possession of him?

  9. Chris Schmiedeke May 23, 2017 at 9:18 am #

    Possession? Don’t each of you have possession? Not sure what you are asking.

  10. Jeannie May 30, 2017 at 7:33 pm #

    What if we have one child, and the ex wife has the other child?? She is also not providing a stable living environment. They have moved 6 times in a year and a half. MA to FL and back and forth. She also lives in her parents basement with her brother and our 11 year old has to share a bed with her. She has no job during all of this and we pay her $1100 a month, but we get nothing for the one we have and have had for 6 years. We are stable and can provide that to him. HELP!!!

  11. Chris Schmiedeke June 6, 2017 at 12:30 pm #

    Contact an attorney and schedule a consultation to discuss your case.

  12. Melissa White June 20, 2017 at 7:14 am #

    We are residents of Collin County and will be consulting an attorney for more detailed information, however, regarding this particular blog entry—is this still the current law? Does the court still “calculate what each party would pay the other in child support and take the difference”? My husband’s divorce was final 4 years ago, they share 50/50 custody and now the ex-wife is claiming disparity of income. We were given the impression if she takes him to court he will have to pay 20% of his net income without any consideration given to her income. Appreciate any information or direction you can provide.

  13. Chris Schmiedeke June 20, 2017 at 8:44 am #

    Melissa, our office handles Collin County cases. You can see more about us at

    This is not a law. It is more of a general practice. The court can offset income as discussed or they can order one party or the other to pay full child support. It is their discretion.

    Let me know if we can help.

  14. Dad July 14, 2017 at 7:50 am #

    I understand the calculation of child support but what about the cost of health insurance for the children? This can be a substantial cost as well. Assuming the incomes are similar, is there a “typical” ruling on who covers that expense? In general, we co-parent well and have the best interest of the kids in mind but money makes people do strange things. If typical/common expenses are split (daycare, medical, school activities, extra curricular activities), would it not be reasonable for the courts to split insurance expense as well? Thanks

  15. Chris Schmiedeke July 14, 2017 at 8:32 am #

    Typically the party paying child support is also required to maintain health insurance. In a split custody situation there is no hard and fast rule. It is up to the parties. If the Court were to make an order I would think they would mirror what they did with child support.

    Be sure to check out my new website at I am posting articles there regularly on all types of subjects. I am not posting on this blog much any more.

  16. Stephanie July 14, 2017 at 1:19 pm #

    My ex and I have 2 kids (16yr & 12yr). We have agreed to let the 16yr live with my ex full time. My question is around child support. I am the Respondent and his motion states, “….then the Court should order Respondent to pay child support for XXXXX and offset the parties’ respective child support obligation”.

    Does that mean he is free and clear of paying any child support or does “offset” means he pays the difference from what I would pay for one child and what he pays for the other child (he makes 3X as much)?

    It sounds like “offset” should be the difference which I believe is fair but not sure of the “legal” meaning..

    Any insight?

  17. Julie Marquett September 7, 2017 at 7:50 pm #

    I live in Texas and had an uncontested 50/50 shared visitation schedule divorce in 2013. At that time I was unaware that I could even ask for support so, neither of us were ordered to pay support. Just recently I learned that since I make SO much less than he does that I could ask for it and have opened a case through the OAG. Could I ask for some sort of back payment for the past years at the same time???

  18. Jack September 16, 2017 at 7:20 am #

    My ex and I have JMC, with him having primary physical.
    I have them 46%, he has them 54%.

    He makes more than twice what I do, however I have to pay him 30% of my income in CS. (During the 12.5 years together, I was a stay at home mom with no income, so the children are not experiencing a discrepancy in their original lifestyle due to the divorce by any means).

    Is this normal, given that we have almost equal time with the kids, and he makes more than double what I do?

    After paying CS and legal fees, I have literally just enough money for gas to/from work each month. I can’t even pay my utilities or car insurance. (Luckily I live rent free on my family’s property, and my car is paid off)

  19. Wesley January 21, 2018 at 6:08 am #

    I have 50/50 with no child support with two kids from a previous marriage. I just had a baby with another woman and I was wondering if I will have to pay 25% to the third child or 5%.

  20. ST3 June 16, 2018 at 7:46 am #

    If this article is correct, which I’m hoping it is. we’re trying to do uncontested 50/50 without child support but evidently the judge can order child support even if the parties are in agreement. So I make 9K more than my wife and if I had to pay 25% of my income that would be 16K, which would make her income more than mine, and it would my ability to pay bills harder. If they did the difference in what we would pay 25% of my income – 25% of her income it would come out to about 3K which is a huge relief. I will post back here after the court stuff is all said and done. thanks for the article

  21. Leslie August 4, 2018 at 9:21 am #

    My husband and I are going to have full custody of my stepson. He has decided he wants to live with us full time in VA. My husband has a daughter in TX that he continues to pay CS for. He is currently paying 20% for one child and the extra 5% for the other. We realize that he has to continue this amount until we go back to court to have it legally lowered to 20% for my stepdaughter, but will CS be lowered at all if my husband make significantly more than his ex or can we expect to continue paying about the same? I guess my question is, if each party has one child, will CS change or just stay the same even though we will be fully financially responsible for my stepson?

  22. Jennifer August 21, 2018 at 6:50 pm #

    Texas courts are a joke. They’re making me pay 252 a month in child support on children in my care and there is a protective order against that father on the children and me. He makes $12 an hour and I am on disability. They’re also making me pay $50 a month to him for insurance on children when I have insurance on them and provided proof. I even presented all this to the child support office and they said I would have to take it to court when I live Hundreds of miles away from Texas. I am beyond frustrated at this point as I have exhausted my resources

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