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Is child support a family law issue for unmarried couples?

Some people wrongly believe that they are exempted from making child support payments simply because they are not married to their child's other parent. This is not true under current Texas law. In fact, some unmarried parents may be surprised to learn that even a noncustodial parent can open a child support case. Additionally, the attorney general's office will pursue child support whenever a parent applies for state assistance such as food stamps or Medicaid.

Under current Texas guidelines, a noncustodial parent is obligated to pay child support in the amount of 20 percent of his or her net income. However, that is only in cases involving one child. A noncustodial parent with two children must pay up to 25 percent of his or her net income and 30 percent for three children.

It is also important to remember that establishing paternity of a child is central to the state's ability to enforce child support payments. This is sometimes an obstacle for unmarried couples because the child's birth records and documentation may not necessarily identify the child's father.

If you are a noncustodial parent currently facing such family law issues, you should know that you have certain legal rights regardless of your marital status. For example, you may be entitled to visitation rights with your child. Once paternity is established, you also will have a say in making decisions regarding the care of your child. Additionally, you may also seek the modification of a child support order if the child is now living with a third-party not specified in that order. Your family law attorney can prove invaluable to protecting your rights and access to your child.

Source: Texas Attorney General's Office, "Handbook for Non-custodial Parents" Oct. 28, 2014

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