Articles Posted in Child Support

iStock-483611874-300x200Failure to pay Texas child support as ordered can result in an enforcement action.  If the motion for enforcement includes a request for a money judgment for arrearages, the trial court generally may not modify or reduce the amount of the arrearages. In a recent case, a mother challenged a court’s finding there was not an arrearage when the father argued he had shifted the payments from the beginning to the end of the month.

The divorce decree appointed the parents joint managing conservators of their two children with the mother having the right to designate their primary residence.  The mother was required to maintain health and dental insurance for the children and the parties were to equally split the healthcare expenses not paid by insurance.  The father was ordered to pay $1,122 monthly child support and $451.22 monthly medical child support through the Office of the Attorney General (“OAG”). The medical child support was reimbursement for the children’s insurance premiums.

Mother Files Child-Support Enforcement

The mother moved to enforce the child support in September 2020.  She sought $1,573.22 in unpaid child support and $311.21 in medical expenses.  She also asked for attorney’s fees and costs.  The trial court ordered the father to pay $155.83 for medical expenses but denied the mother’s other requests, finding the amount of child-support and medical-support arrearages were $0 as of the date of the hearing.

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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-1331374129-300x200When a parent is intentionally unemployed, a court may order Texas child support based on that parent’s earning potential.  Tex. Fam. Code 154.066(a). A mother recently challenged a court’s finding she was intentionally unemployed, arguing instead that her mental health concerns prevented her from being employed.

When the parents divorced in 2010, the court ordered the mother to pay $150 in child support.

She sought to modify the custody order in 2018, and the other party responded by asking for more child support.  The mother asked the court to eliminate her child-support obligation altogether.

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iStock-1125625723-300x200When parties to a Texas divorce reach an agreement, the agreement may place conditions on certain obligations.  A “condition precedent” is something that must occur before a party has a right to performance of an obligation by the other party. In a recent case, a mother challenged a trial court’s finding she had not met the condition precedent to receive certain payments from the father.

In the final divorce decree, the trial court approved and incorporated the parties’ Agreement Incident to Divorce (“AID”). The parties agreed the father would pay $11,500 in monthly Contract Support Payments to the mother to provide her and the two children an “alternative lifestyle.”  They would travel and live abroad so the children could learn other languages and cultures. The mother agreed to maintain this lifestyle and spend the Contract Support Payments to support it as a condition precedent to receiving the payments. The AID also included a provision that the father could send a notice if the mother failed to comply with a material term or condition. If she failed to cure the breach within 30 days, the Contract Support Payments would be abated until she complied.

Father Grows Concerned About Children’s Upbringing

The mother and children traveled within the U.S. and several countries abroad until July 2018. The father grew concerned about the children’s lack of structured education and their health and hygiene by the summer of 2018.

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iStock-483611874-300x200A modification of Texas child support requires the parent seeking the modification to show there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances since the current order was rendered. Tex. Fam. Code § 156.401. A change in income may be a material and substantial change.  A court’s primary consideration should be the child’s best interest.

A father recently appealed the denial of his petition for modification of child support.

The parties divorced in 2018.  The father agreed to pay $2,000 in monthly child support, to provide health insurance,  to make monthly payments for a credit card balance that had been used for his business, and to pay the mother $50,000 in $1,500 monthly payments for her community interest in the business.

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iStock-1033856542-300x200Some families choose to resolve custody manners informally.  When the parties are the biological parents, subsequent disputes can be resolved through a Texas custody case.  When one party is not biological parent, however, resulting disputes may be more complex. In a recent case, a maternal uncle and aunt appealed an order that required them to pay child support for their nephew.

When the child was born, the child’s biological mother asked her brother to act as the child’s father.  The brother signed an acknowledgment of paternity, birth certificate, and a verification of birth facts.  The birth certificate listed the brother’s wife as the mother.  Initially, they all lived together, but the mother moved out following a falling out with the couple.

Mother Files Paternity Suit

In August of 2016, the mother petitioned to adjudicate parentage, asking the court to adjudicate her as the mother and an identified man as the father.  The brother and his wife were named as parties, but they also intervened in the case, asking the court to name them the child’s managing conservators and terminate the mother and alleged father’s parental rights.

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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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iStock-848796670-300x200In some Texas custody cases, parents may agree to a support order that differs from the child-support guidelines. A Texas appeals court recently considered what evidence was necessary to support a modification when the father’s income had increased significantly since the agreed order.

The trial court issued an agreed order in 2013 following a mediated settlement agreement between the parties.  The parties agreed the father’s child support would be $1,000 per month, because he would pay all of the travel costs when the mother moved to Virginia (which she did shortly after the agreement).

In 2017, the mother sought an increase in child support by filing a modification suit. Since the original agreed order, the father’s income had increased dramatically. The trial court ordered an increased monthly payment, but the appeals court reversed the order and remanded for a new trial, finding insufficient evidence supporting the amount ordered.

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5thingsdivorcecourt_header-300x163Tex. Fam. Code § 153.009(a) requires the court in a Texas custody case to interview a child who is at least 12 years old to determine their wishes regarding custody, “on the application of a party. . . “ A father recently challenged a court’s failure to interview the children in a custody case.

The mother petitioned to increase child support for the parties’ three teenage children and require the father to pay their extracurricular expenses.  The father asked to be named the primary managing conservator with the exclusive right to designate the children’s primary residence.

The parties stipulated that $2,760 was the amount the father should pay under the Texas Family Code’s “guidelines.” The trial court ordered the father to pay not only $2,760 monthly, but also half of the children’s extracurricular expenses. The trial court also denied his request to have the exclusive right to designate the children’s primary residence. Continue Reading ›

iStock-1125625723Parties to a Texas suit affecting the parent-child relationship may enter into a mediated settlement agreement (“MSA”) to resolve one or more issues in their suit.  An MSA is binding if it prominently states in bold or underlined font or in capital letters that it is not subject to revocation, is signed by the parties, and is signed by the parties’ attorneys who are present at the execution. Tex. Fam. Code § 153.0071. When these requirements are met, a party is entitled to judgment on the MSA. Because an MSA is a contract, it is construed according to the contract-interpretation principles.  If an MSA is ambiguous, there is a fact issue of the intent of the parties. A Texas appeals court recently considered what should happen when an MSA included a discrepancy between the stated amount of child support and the calculation for determining child support.

Mother and Father Enter into Settlement Agreement

Following mediation, the parents entered into an MSA that included an attached handwritten page with a child-support calculation as well as four W-2s showing the wages the father earned.  The parties initialed each page of the MSA, but not the W-2s.

The MSA identified the father’s child-support obligation as $1,062.60 per month. The attachment stated that “child support is based on [the father’s] representation that he has no rental income and is calculated pursuant to the attached calculations and Exhibits.”

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