Articles Posted in Child Support Arrears

iStock-952098878-300x200When child support goes unpaid, Texas child-support cases can sometimes go on for years after the obligation would otherwise have terminated. A Texas appeals court recently considered what happens when one parent dies before the past-due child support has been paid.

The parents had a daughter together during their marriage and divorced in 1976.  The father failed to pay child support as ordered at times.  The trial court found him in contempt in 1987 and ordered him to pay $200 per month in support with additional amounts for a specified time going toward the arrearages.

Adult Daughter Files Child-Support Suit After Mother’s Death

In 2010, the adult daughter filed a petition regarding the unpaid support after her mother’s death. She asked the court to render judgment for the past due child support and to make her the obligee for the arrearages.

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iStock-952098878-300x200When a trial court orders income withholding for Texas child-support arrearages, the amount withheld must either be sufficient to pay off the arrearages within two years, or must be an additional 20% added to the current monthly support, whichever would result in the arrearages being paid off sooner. Tex. Fam. Code § 158.003. The court may, however, extend the timeframe for paying the arrearages if it finds the two-year timeframe would cause the party, their family, or the children unreasonable hardship. Tex. Fam. Code § 158.007.  A custodial aunt recently appealed an order that would allow a father to pay off child-support and medical-support arrearages he owed her over 25 to 30 years.

Aunt Awarded Child Support and Medical Support

The child’s aunt intervened in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship in 2005 and was awarded child support from the child’s father.  The court found the father in contempt for failing to pay the child support and awarded the aunt a judgment for the arrearages in 2006.

The trial court ultimately appointed the aunt and the father joint managing conservators, but ordered that the child would live primarily with the aunt. Both the mother and father were ordered to pay child support to the aunt. The father was ordered to pay $160 in child support and $70 in medical support each month.  The support was to begin September 1, 2006 and continue until the child’s 18th birthday, graduation from high school, marriage, or death.

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does-adultery-affect-alimony-in-idaho-1080x600-1Children’s medical and educational expenses can often be a contentious issue in Texas child-support cases. Parents may disagree on whether treatment is needed, what providers should be used, and whether the child should be in private school.  A father recently challenged an order to pay certain medical expenses, arguing the mother had not used preferred providers as required by the decree.

The final divorce decree appointed both parents joint managing conservators with the mother having the right to establish the primary residence with a geographical restriction. The mother was responsible for maintaining the children’s health insurance.  The father had an expanded modified possession order and paid child support and reimbursement of insurance premiums as additional child support.  Each party was responsible for 50% of additional health-care expenses.

Father Seeks Modification of Divorce Decree

The father petitioned for modification in 2018, seeking the exclusive right to establish the primary residence, as well as child support and certain exclusive decision-making authority.

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iStock-483611874Sometimes Texas child-support disputes can continue well past the child’s eighteenth birthday.  A Texas appeals court recently decided a case regarding back child support for children who were in their 50s.

This case dealt with a writ of income withholding and child-support liens.  Pursuant to Tex. Fam. Code § § 158.301, a parent may file a notice of application of judicial writ of withholding if there is a delinquency in child support that is at least the total due for a month. The notice must include the amount of the arrearages and the amount to be withheld. Tex. Fam. Code § 158.302(1).  The obligor may file a motion to stay the writ within 10 days of receiving the notice.  Tex. Fam. Code § 158.307(a).  The clerk of court may not deliver the judicial writ of withholding until a hearing has occurred. Tex. Fam. Code § 158.308.

According to the appeals court’s opinion, the trial court ordered the father to pay child support when the parents divorced in 1970.

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iStock-531351317Texas family law considers Social Security disability benefits to be a substitute for the parent’s earnings. Pursuant to Tex. Fam. Code § 157.009, when a child receives a lump-sum payment due to the parent’s disability, the parent is entitled to a credit applied to any arrearage and interest. Additionally, when a trial court applies the child support guidelines to a parent who receives disability benefits, the court must determine how much child support would be ordered under the guidelines then subtract the value of any benefits paid to the child as a result of the parent’s disability.  Tex. Fam. Code § 154.132.

The Office of the Attorney General (“OAG”) recently appealed a trial court order applying a lump sum disability payment as a credit to future child support. The trial court signed the parents’ divorce decree in 2016.  The court ordered the father to pay $603.25 in monthly child support.  He filed a petition for modification in 2018, asking the court to modify his child support obligations. The OAG intervened, stating he owed back child support and asking the court to enter judgment for the arrearages and accrued interest.

Father Argues He is Entitled to Future Credit for Disability Payment

The OAG stated in its brief that the father had started receiving Social Security Disability benefits and the children had received a lump sum benefit payment. The OAG contended that amount could only be used as a credit against the father’s arrearage and not for future child support.  The father, however, asked the court to give him a credit against his future obligation.

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Many couples attempt to reconcile after breaking up or divorcing.  Moving back in together can effect a parent’s obligation to provide child support.  If the parent who is obligated to pay child support is contributing to the support of the household, he or she may be entitled to a credit for their child-support obligation.  In a recent case, a mother challenged a court’s order giving the father a credit against back child support for the period of time when they had lived together with the children.

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