What Changes and What Stays the Same with Regard to Child Support Orders

Child support in Texas has always been a court ordered obligation in Texas divorce and paternity actions.  Before implementation of the child support guidelines in the Texas Family Code in the 1980s, child support orders varied from court to court and county to county.  However, the enactment of Chapter 154 of the Texas Family Code was the Texas legislature’s attempt to bring uniformity and predictability to child support orders.  In doing so, the legislature established “guidelines” which established a method of computing child support which, when net resources are applied to the guidelines, would create an amount which would be “rebuttably presumed” to be in the best interests of the child. 

 

In Texas, the guidelines dictate that child support is a percentage of net resources which includes a laundry list of income and benefits received by a person ordered to pay child support.  That person is called an “obligor.”  What is and is not classified as net resources can be found in Texas Family Code § 154.062. 

Net Resources

 

(a) The court shall calculate net resources for the purpose of determining child support liability as    

provided by this section.

 

(b) Resources include:

(1) 100 percent of all wage and salary income and other compensation for personal services (including commissions, overtime pay, tips, and bonuses);

(2) interest, dividends, and royalty income;

(3) self-employment income;

(4) net rental income (defined as rent after deducting operating expenses and mortgage payments, but not including noncash items such as depreciation); and

(5) all other income actually being received, including severance pay, retirement benefits, pensions, trust income, annuities, capital gains, social security benefits other than supplemental security income, unemployment benefits, disability and workers' compensation benefits, interest income from notes regardless of the source, gifts and prizes, spousal maintenance, and alimony.

 

(c) Resources do not include:

(1) return of principal or capital;

(2) accounts receivable;

(3) benefits paid in accordance with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program or another federal public assistance program; or

(4) payments for foster care of a child.

 

(d) The court shall deduct the following items from resources to determine the net resources available for child support:

(1) social security taxes;

(2) federal income tax based on the tax rate for a single person claiming one personal exemption and the standard deduction;

(3) state income tax;

(4) union dues;

(5) expenses for the cost of health insurance or cash medical support for the obligors child ordered by the court under Section 154.182; and

(6) if the obligor does not pay social security taxes, nondiscretionary retirement plan contributions.

 

(e) In calculating the amount of the deduction for health care coverage for a child under Subsection (d)(5), if the obligor has other minor dependents covered under the same health insurance plan, the court shall divide the total cost to the obligor for the insurance by the total number of minor dependents, including the child, covered under the plan.

 

(f) For purposes of Subsection (d) (6), a nondiscretionary retirement plan is a plan to which an employee is required to contribute as a condition of employment.

There are additional factors for the court to consider but these factors are determined by the Court on a case by case basis.  However, income of a spouse cannot be added to an obligor spouse’s net resources. 

 

To aid in the computation, the Attorney General’s Office is charges with annually promulgating tax charts to compute net monthly income, subtracting from gross income social security taxes and federal income tax withholding for a single person claiming one personal exemption and the standard deduction.

 

The presumption is that net resources shall be multiplied by percentages based upon the number of children that the obligor and obligee have together. These percentages have not changed:  

1 child        20% of Obligors Net Resources

2 children   25% of Obligors Net Resources

3 children   30% of Obligors Net Resources

4 children   35% of Obligors Net Resources

5 children   40% of Obligors Net Resources

6+ children  Not less than the amount for 5 children

In the 1980s a cap of $6,000 was established which would be applied to the foregoing percentages.  In 1995, the cap was raised to $7,500 and beginning September 1, 2013, the cap was raised to $8,550.  The legislature imposed the duty of recomputing net resources according to the Consumer Price Index. The 2013 legislature at the Attorney General’s request, based upon research since 1995, made the leap to $8,550 as a cap.

The cap is a guideline and is not a ceiling. The legislature allowed courts to set child support above the guidelines should the court deem such to be in the best interest of the child.  Purely as a measuring stick, an obligor would reach the cap for the presumed child support order at an income level of approximately $12,500 per month. So for one child, the presumed child support for an obligor with $8,550 in net resources would be $1,710 per month. Amounts of net resources less than $12,500 per month would also be applied to the applicable percentage.

Two Recent Changes to the Child Support Statute

Effective September 1, 2013, two changes to the child support statute came into effect.

The first change is a housekeeping amendment. Texas Family Code section 154.062(b)(5) includes both a catch–all provision to determine the amount of net resources an obligor receives and a list of income that is excluded from the definition of net resources. The Texas legislature amended section 154.062(b)(5) to add an exclusion for non–service–connected disability pension benefits. Section 154.062(b)(5) now reads:

(5) all other income actually being received, including severance pay, retirement benefits, pensions, trust income, annuities, capital gains, social security benefits other than supplemental security income, United States Department of Veterans Affairs disability benefits other than non-service-connected disability pension benefits, as defined by 38 U.S.C. Section 101(17), unemployment benefits, disability and workers' compensation benefits, interest income from notes regardless of the source, gifts and prizes, spousal maintenance, and alimony.

The Texas Attorney General, not the Texas legislature, made the second change to the child support statute. Under Texas Family Code section 154.125, the Attorney General periodically recalculates the net resources cap to take inflation into account. The cap rose from $7,500 to $8,550.

The maximum amount of guideline child support a court may order an obligor to pay is 40% of net resources. Under the old cap, the maximum dollar amount of guideline child support equalled $3,000. Under the new cap, guideline child support maxes out at $3,420. Put another way, an obligor maxes out for guideline child support purposes at a monthly gross income of $11,828.81 for the employed and $12,580.47 for the self-employed.

Kudos to Bobby Wadsworth

Dallas attorney Darren L. Schraeder is a lucky man. He is lucky because Bobby Wadsworth is his paralegal. And Bobby Wadsworth is one careful guy. He noticed something odd about our Texas child support calculator and found a small rounding error that had gone undetected thus far.

Child support in Texas is based upon the obligor's annual resources. From that amount is subtracted federal income, social security and medicaid taxes for one person claiming one exemption and the standard deduction. So what we do is gross up the obligor's pay to the annual amount before beginning our calculations. Then we break the annual amount down into monthly, twice per month, every other week and weekly payment amounts.

Simple, right? Monthly child support is the annual amount divided by 12, twice per month is the annual amount divided by 24, every two weeks is the annual amount divided by 26, and weekly child support is the annual amount divided by 52. But Bobby noticed that when he multiplied the every two weeks and weekly results on our calculator, by 26 and 52 respectively, the amount was slightly off.

So Darren Schraeder emailed me about the discrepancy and I dug into the code. Sure enough, what we had done was estimate 2.17 two-week periods per month rather than gross the monthly amount up to the annual amount then divide by 26. We calculated 4.33 weekly periods per month for the weekly calculation.

We've revised the code - the revised app will be available on iTunes in a few days. If you already bought the 2013 version of the Texas child support calculator, the fix is a free download that iTunes will tell you to get. In the meantime, your weekly and twice-per-week calculations will be very slightly off. Thanks again to Bobby for helping us to make a better product.

Child Support and the "Fiscal Cliff"

Calculating child support in Texas requires determining the obligor's gross income, then subtracting certain amounts from gross income to calculate "net resources." After that, a percentage is applied to net resources to calculate child support. The percentage varies depending on the number of children before the court and the number of other children the obligor is court–ordered to support.

The first two deductions from net resources are:

(1) social security taxes; and

(2) federal income tax based on the tax rate for a single person claiming one personal exemption and the standard deduction.

Tex. Fam. Code § 154.062(d).

Historically, social security taxes were set at 12.4% with the employer paying half for employees. In 2010, as part of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010, Congress dropped social security taxes to 10.4% for tax year 2012 to help stimulate the economy. At this time, the employee pays 4.2% and the employer 6.2%.

Normally, by November of each year, the IRS would publish tax rates and brackets for the upcoming year. With this information in hand, the amount of child support for the following year could be calculated in advance. But the tax margins and rates are based on the "Bush tax cuts" which were enacted in 2001 and 2003. The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 extended the Bush tax cuts through 2012.

Child support in Texas cannot be calculated for 2013 at this time. The "fiscal cliff" is looming. The "fiscal cliff" refers to the financial repercussions if social security taxes return to their prior rate of 12.4% and the Bush tax cuts expire. Because we do not know what the social security tax percentage, the tax rates and the tax brackets will be for 2013, we simply do not know right now how to calculate child support amounts for Texas in 2013.

It is even possible that child support calculation will change during 2013. If the fiscal cliff comes to pass, we can calculate child support based on the new numbers, but it seems likely that Congress will further act in the new year to change social security taxes, marginal tax rates and tax brackets, in which case calculation of child support would change during 2013. Stay tuned.

Error in Texas Attorney General's Child Support Calculator

Under the name VernerLegal, I publish a Texas Child Support Calculator app for iPad and iPhone. As part of quality assurance, I test the calculator against the Texas Attorney General's child support tax charts.

Recently, the AG published a child support calculator on the AG's website. A colleague emailed me to say that my child support calculator produced different results from the AG's child support calculator. Using similar but not identical figures for privacy purposes, I input gross income at $2,500 per month with five children and medical insurance of $400 per month into the AG's calculator. The calculator yielded monthly child support payable of $695.17:

Error in Texas Attorney General child support calculator

My calculator, in contrast, yielded monthly child support payable of $766.75 per month. That's a difference of $71.58 per month - a huge difference if the obligor grosses only $2,500 per month.

Texas Child Support Calculator   

So I went troubleshooting and discovered a flaw in the AG's child support calculator. Medical insurance paid by the obligor is one of the deductions from annual resources to reach net resources, on which child support is calculated. However, the amount of the medical insurance deduction from annual resources is limited to 9% of annual resources under Texas Family Code section 154.181(e). That section reads in part:

If the obligor is responsible under a medical support order for the cost of health insurance coverage for more than one child, "reasonable cost" means the total cost of health insurance coverage for all children for which the obligor is responsible under a medical support order that does not exceed nine percent of the obligor's annual resources, as described by Section 154.062(b).

Nine percent of $2,500 equals $225. If $225 is substituted for $400 for medical insurance on the AG's child support calculator, then the AG's calculation is correct (with minor differences due to mathematical rounding).

It's unusual that a person who makes only $2,500 per month would pay as much as $400 for medical insurance for the children. But it happened in this instance.

Attorneys and others should be aware of the error in the AG's child support calculator when obligors with a relatively low income pay high medical insurance premiums. I am informed, but do not know, that ProDocs' Texas child support calculator has the same flaw as the AG's.

Court Orders Too Much Child Support

Texas calculates child support according to the child support guidelines. These guidelines base child support on percentages of "net resources" which is analogous to take-home pay. A court may deviate from the child support guidelines but only if there is evidence in the record to support the deviation.

In In re Godfrey, the trial court ordered the wife to pay child support of $554.32 per month for two children based on "about $1,200" in earnings. But guideline child support for two children equals 25% of net resources. Even if the $1,200 represented take-home pay, the amount of child support should have equaled no more than $300 per month.

Other than testifying that the wife made "about $1,200" per month, the husband said he wanted child support of $554.32 per month. There was no other evidence of income or earnings.

The pro se wife did not testify at the trial because she "couldn't think." She did file a motion for rehearing at which she testified that her normal pay equaled about $280 per week. The trial court denied the motion for rehearing.

The court of appeals noted that at $1,200 per month, monthly child support for two children would equal substantially less than $554.32. Even if the court attributed the minimum wage to the wife and presumed a 40-hour workweek, child support for two children would equal even less. Finding no other evidence to support any deviation from the child support guidelines, the court of appeals reversed the child support award.

For instant, accurate calculation of Texas child support, use VernerLegal's iPhone/iPad app, Texas Child Support Calculator.

Anatomy of a Texas Family Law Appeal - Child Support Findings

The first post of the Anatomy of a Family Law Appeal series made the point that positioning a case for appeal begins at trial and sometimes even before trial has begun. This post highlights the first post-trial deadline in cases in which the trial court sets the amount of child support. That deadline can be as short as ten days after the child-support hearing, regardless whether the trial court has ruled.

Section 154.130 of the Texas Family Code states that the trial court must make child support findings if:

(1) a party files a written request with the court not later than 10 days after the date of the hearing;

(2) a party makes an oral request in open court during the hearing; or

(3) the amount of child support ordered by the court varies from the amount computed by applying the percentage guidelines under Section 154.125 or 154.129, as applicable.[1]

If a party makes a timely request for child support findings, then the trial court must state whether application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate plus make the following findings:

(1) the net resources of the obligor per month are $______;

(2) the net resources of the obligee per month are $______;

(3) the percentage applied to the obligor's net resources for child support is ______%; and

(4) if applicable, the specific reasons that the amount of child support per month ordered by the court varies from the amount computed by applying the percentage guidelines under Section 154.125 or 154.129, as applicable.

When litigating the amount of child support, be sure to calendar ten days after trial to consider asking for child support findings.

[1] Sections 154.125 and 154.129 provide alternative methods by which to calculate "guideline" child support. For information about guideline child support, see Child Support Changes September 1.

Tex Parte Blog Features iPhone Child Support App

Texas Lawyer's "Tex Parte Blog" posted a nice blurb about our iPhone app that calculates Texas guideline child support:

Texas child support? There's an app for that.

JimmyvernerJimmy Verner Jr. (pictured), a shareholder in Dallas' Verner & Brumley, has begun marketing a Texas child support calculator application for an iPhone.  "I'm kind of a techy person. I developed a formula for figuring out child support payments online, and someone in my office said, 'You ought to turn it into an iPhone application,' " recalls Verner. So, with the help of a freelance software developer and about a month's worth of effort, he did just that. His application has been on sale on iTunes online since July 23. So far, Verner says, 20 customers have bought it, paying $7.99 each -- 70 percent of which Verner pockets, with 30 percent going to iPhone's famous maker Apple Computer Inc. Verner says he is considering developing similar iPhone applications for New York and California child support calculations, but those states have more complicated formulas, so it's taking more time. In the next two weeks, he plans to begin marketing an iPhone application to calculate litigation deadlines, factoring in weekends and holidays. Oh, by the way, Verner didn't even own an iPhone until he needed to test his idea. 
-- Miriam Rozen

iPhone Application Calculates Texas Child Support

Verner & Brumley, P.C., announces that Jimmy Verner has created an iPhone application that calculates Texas guideline child support.

With only five inputs, anyone - whether an attorney or a person in the middle of a divorce or modification suit - can calculate the exact amount of Texas guideline child support that must be paid. The inputs are:

  • whether the person who will pay child support is self-employed
  • that person's gross annual income
  • how many children are before the court
  • the amount of annual health insurance premium for the children
  • how many children from prior relationships the person already is ordered to support.

With these five inputs, the Texas Child Support Calculator determines the exact amount of child support that must be paid. 

Support for the calculator - should any be needed - is available at no charge through VernerLegal, a website hosted by Mr. Verner.

The Texas Child Support Calculator can be purchased from the iTunes Store.

The Quirky Language of Child Support Laws

Often, after divorce, a former spouse moves the court to increase or to decrease child support. When this occurs, Texas Family Code section 156.401(b) states that when the court ultimately makes a ruling on the modification, the modification can be made to take effect as of the date citation was served in the motion to modify or the date the opposing party appeared in that suit. In other words, the increased or decreased amount of child support can be made payable as of a date in the past.

In In the Interest of R.C.T., the Texas Attorney General moved a trial court to increase the amount of child support a former husband must pay. In September 2006, the trial court ordered that as of April 2005, the former husband's child support should be increased to $1,340 from $828 per month. The trial court calculated that the amount of retroactively unpaid child support from April 2005 to September 2006 equaled $9,024. The trial court ordered the former husband to pay this $9,024 at the rate of $150 per month on top of the new child support amount of $1,340 monthly.

The Attorney General then filed a child support lien for the $9,024 in unpaid child support.* The Attorney General also requested the Treasury Department to withhold the former husband's anticipated federal income tax refund of $3,839 and pay it in partial satisfaction of the $9,024.

The former husband appealed. He argued that (1) the child support lien could not issue because the $9,024 was not "due and owing" as required under the child support lien statute; and (2) his federal income tax refund could not be intercepted because the $9,024 was not "past-due support" under federal law. Both positions were based upon the trial court's order that the $9,024 would be paid at $150 per month.

Houston's Fourteenth Court of Appeals ruled against the former husband on the first issue but for him on the second one. The court reasoned that the $9,024 was "due" because "it is an amount that is presently enforceable." The $9,024 was "owing" because, in fact, the former husband did owe the money. Thus, the child support lien could issue.

On the second issue, the Fourteenth Court of Appeals held that "past-due support" under federal law means that child-support payments are "delinquent." The court followed the lead of a Pennsylvania decision which held that "the federal intercept program does not encompass situations where a parent has continually complied with his child support obligation, but where, nonetheless, arrearages are created as a result of the retroactive effect of an order of support." Therefore, the Attorney General could not intercept the former husband's federal income tax refund and apply it to the $9,024.

_________________________

* Why, one might ask, would the Attorney General take this action when the trial court had ordered this $9,024 paid at $150 per month? This is a subject for another post, but suffice it to say that the Attorney General's Office has taken an wide-ranging view of its powers to collect child support.

What if the Obligor is Intentionally Unemployed?

Section 154.066 of the Texas Family Code reads:

If the actual income of the obligor is significantly less than what the obligor could earn because of intentional unemployment or underemployment, the court may apply the support guidelines to the earning potential of the obligor.

This provision is, of course, designed to enable a court to force a recalcitrant obligor to pay child support.

For that reason, the Fifth District Court of Appeals recently held that an obligee has the burden to prove that the obligor is intentionally unemployed. In the Interest of K.N.C., 2008 Tex. App. LEXIS 9374 (Tex. App. - Dallas Dec. 17, 2008, n.p.h.). In this case, the father had been seriously injured in a car wreck. When he and his wife divorced, the father received disability benefits, as did the parties' two children.

The trial court ordered the father to pay child support based on the amount the father received as disability payments. But the court of appeals disagreed. There was no evidence that the father quit a job to avoid paying child support. Further, that the obligor applied for a city job two years earlier constituted insufficient evidence to show intentional unemployment when the parties did not dispute that the obligor previously had been seriously injured in an automobile accident and unemployed since that time. 

Post-Mortem Child Support

For a long time, Texas law said that unpaid child support terminated on the death of the noncustodial parent.  This year's Texas legislature dramatically changed this law by establishing a system for post-mortem child support.

Senate Bill 617 deleted the clause stating that a noncustodial parent's child support obligation terminates on that parent's death.  The Bill added Texas Family Code section 154.016.  This section allows a court to require a noncustodial parent to purchase and maintain a life insurance policy or annuity to pay the unpaid child support in the event that the noncustodial parent dies while child support is still payable.

The Bill also added Texas Family Code section 154.015.  This section states that "the remaining unpaid balance of the child support obligation becomes payable on the date the obligor."  But how is the balance determined?  Section 154.015 directs the court to discount future child support to present value but then also to consider benefits to the child upon the obligor's death, such as life insurance.  The court then decides whether the child support obligation has been satisfied.  To the extent not satisfied, the child support obligation becomes a claim against the obligor's estate.

Taken together, these legislative changes operate to protect the child from a loss of child support occasioned by the untimely death of a parent.  Texas Family Code section 154.015 applies only if the noncustodial parent died on or after September 1, 2007.  The other parts of the statute apply to an order for child support issued at any time, even before the Act passed.

Child Support Changes September 1

For cases filed after September 1, 2007, child support will go up, depending on one's income level.  In House Bill 448, the Texas legislature made three changes to child support:

1.   Although child support percentages remain the same, the "net resources" ceiling will increase from $6,000 to $7,500.  This means that the percentages will be applied up to $7,500 in net resources instead of just to the first $6,000 of net resources.

    The child support percentages are:

 1 child  20% of net resources
 2 children
 25% of net resources
 3 children
 30% of net resources
 4 children
 35% of net resources
 5 children
 40% of net resources
 6+ children
 Not less than the amount for 5 children

2.  The second change is that the net resources ceiling ($7,500) is to be adjusted every six years to reflect inflation, according to the Consumer Price Index.

    These changes are part of amended Texas Family Code section 154.125.  The third change - requiring pro rata calculation of dependent health insurance - is reflected in Texas Family Code sections 154.182 and 154.183:

3.  The Juvenile Justice & Family Issues Committee Report describes this third major change:
Provides that in calculating expenses for health insurance coverage, if the obligor has other minor dependents covered under the same health coverage the court shall divide the total cost to the obligor of the coverage by the total number of dependents, including the child that is the subject of the order.
None of this applies if a case is pending prior to September 1, 2007.  Only if the case is filed on or after that date do these changes apply.

When May the Noncustodial Parent Claim Tax Exemptions?

The Internal Revenue Code currently allows a deduction of $3,300 per dependent on federal income tax returns.  These deductions are called "exemptions."  According to IRC § 152(c)(3), dependents include your children, so long as they have not reached age 19 by the end of that tax year.  If a child is a full-time student who has not reached age 24 by the end of the tax year, the child can also be claimed as a dependent.

What happens on divorce or separation?  Many who pay child support believe that paying child support entitles them to claim a child as a dependent for tax purposes.  This widely-held misconception simply is not true.  The key fact to claiming a child as a dependent is whether the parent is the custodial parent.  Ordinarily, custodial parents are the ones who are allowed to claim children as dependents, even when the noncustodial parent pays substantial amounts of child support.

IRC § 152(e)(1) sets out the general rule, which is that a child can be claimed as a dependent by the custodial parent.  IRC § 152(e)(3)(A) says that "custodial parent" means "the parent with whom a child shared the same principal place of abode for the greater portion of the calendar year." 

According to IRC § 152(e)(2)(A), there are two ways in which a noncustodial parent can claim a child as a dependent:

1.  The custodial parent signs a Form 8332 ("Release of Claim to Exemption for Child of Divorced or Separated Parents") which the noncustodial parent attaches to his tax return; or

2.  The divorce decree, separate maintenance or written separation agreement states that the noncustodial parent shall be entitled to claim a child as a dependent.

What happens if both parents claim the same dependent?  The IRS has published what it calls the "Tie-Breaker Rule."  Under this rule, the parent with whom the child lived for the longer period of time during the year is awarded the exemption.  if the child lived with each parent the same amount of time during the year, then the parent with the higher adjusted gross income is awarded the exemption.

What the Feds Do With New Hire Information

The federal Office of Child Support Enforcement ("OCSE") runs a number of programs designed to locate parents who don't pay their child support.  One of these programs is called the New Hire Reporting Program.  This program requires employers to notify the state whenever they hire a new employee.  The information provided is the same as on a W-4.

The employer must send in the new hire information within twenty days of the day the new employee begins work.  If new hire information is sent in electronically, it must be done twice per month, with no transmissions being less than twelve days apart and none more than sixteen days apart.  After the state receives the new hire information, the state sends it on to OCSE.  The data become part of the National Directory of New Hires, which is a central repository of employment, unemployment insurance claimant data, and quarterly wage data.  It is also added to the Federal Case Registry, which is a national database that contains information on individuals in child support cases and child support orders.

What does OCSE do when it receives new hire information?  All new hire information is run through the National Directory of New Hires and the Federal Case Registry.  If a name pops up, then the information is sent back to the state.  The state child support agency uses this information to establish or modify a child support order, or enforce (through income withholding) an existing order.

On request of a state, OCSE's Federal Parent Locator Service will run a name through "external federal agency databases" for the purpose of establishing or enforcing a child support order.  These databases are immense and confidential.  They include IRS records, the Social Security Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense and the FBI.

Never heard of the New Hire Reporting Program?  Perhaps this is why:  By federal law, the penalty for failing to report a new hire can be no more than $25.

Past Due Child Support Payments Applied First to Interest

When a person is past due on a debt, then makes a payment, how is the payment applied?  Does the payment reduce the principal, or is the principal left intact and only interest reduced?  The answer to this question made a difference of about $30,000 in a recent Florida child support case called Vitt v. Rodriguez.

In Vitt, the ex-husband paid some child support immediately after divorce.  According to the opinion, the ex-husband then "disappeared in 1990.  He was eventually located in Tampa in 2003, at which point he was behind in his child support plus accrued interest in the amount of approximately $161,000."

Under a local court rule, payments on past due child support were to be applied first to current child support, second to the principal amount of past due child support, and finally to interest on the past due child support.  Under this system, the ex-husband reduced his debt approximately $30,000 more than he would have reduced it had the payments been applied to interest on past due child support before applying those payments to the past due principal amount. 

In an appeal of the issue, the court found no statute that directed how payments should be applied.  The court then adopted the common law rule for application of payments.  Relying on a United States Supreme Court case from 1839, the court agreed "that in applying a payment on a debt, the interest due should first be satisfied, and the balance should then to be applied to diminish the principal."  Thus, the ex-husband owed an additional $30,000 in interest on past due child support.

It is surprising, as the court said, that Florida had no rule on the application of payments.  To what extent other states have such rules is unknown, but in Texas, the Family Code clearly establishes how payments toward past due child support are to be applied - first toward current child support, second toward interest on past due child support, third toward the principal amount of past due child support, and finally toward any attorney's fees or costs ordered paid by the court.