Articles Posted in Child Support

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-531351317When a court determines the amount of Texas child support a parent is obligated to pay, it must consider that parent’s net resources.  The statute sets forth certain items to be included in the parent’s net resources and other items that are not to be included.  Tex. Fam. Code § 154.062.  An appeals court recently had to determine if a trial court could consider an item that is not specifically included in the statute.

The divorce decree required the father to pay child support, provide health insurance, and reimburse the mother for 50% of non-covered health-care expenses.

Mother Moves for Modification

The mother subsequently moved to modify the decree to change the father’s possession and access and to increase his child-support obligation.  She also moved to enforce the decree, claiming the father failed to reimburse her for health-care expenses.

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iStock-1132277483In determining the Texas child-support obligation of a parent, the court may consider whether that parent is intentionally unemployed or underemployed.  If the court finds the parent is intentionally unemployed or underemployed, it may apply the support guidelines to that parent’s earning potential, rather than to their actual earnings.  Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 154.066.  The court does not have to find the parent was attempting to avoid child support to find intentional unemployment or underemployment.

In a recent case, a father challenged the denial of his request for modification of his child-support obligation following a change in jobs that resulted in a significant salary reduction.  When the parties divorced in 2015, the trial court appointed the parents joint managing conservators and gave the mother the exclusive right to determine the children’s primary residence. The father was ordered to pay $1,600 in monthly child support and to maintain insurance for the children.

Mother and Father File Competing Modification Suits

The mother petitioned to modify the medical-support provision to give her the obligation to maintain medical insurance in 2019.  The father counter-petitioned to reduce his monthly child support based on a change in his salary.

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iStock-483611874The trial court has some discretion in determining the modified amount of child support when it has determined that a Texas child support order should be modified. Tex. Fam. Code § 154.125 provides a schedule of percentages that are presumptively applied when the parent’s net monthly resources do not exceed a specified amount. The trial court, however,  may consider the listed factors or “any other reason” to determine the application of those amounts is not in the best interest of the child.  Tex. Fam. Code § 154.123. There must be evidence of the child’s “proven needs” in the record for the court to deviate upwards from the guidelines. Tex. Fam. Code § 154.126.

A father recently challenged a modification to his child support obligation, arguing the trial court improperly deviated from the presumptive amount. According to the appeals court’s opinion, the parties’ 2017 divorce decree obligated the father to pay $1,710 in child support each month for one child (i.e., max child support at the time). In 2018, he petitioned to modify the amount of child support, claiming his income had decreased.

Father Seeks Reduction in Child Support

The father lived in California and worked as a vice president, selling software testing. His base salary was $80,000, but he also earned commissions and a significant bonus (up to 50% of his base salary). The mother had been a homemaker, but had just begun providing catering services at the time of the hearing.  She had earned approximately $1,400 for the one event she had catered at the time of trial.

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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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BSgavelx1200-768x432-1The trial court in a Texas family law case has only a limited ability to change its judgment once its plenary power expires.  Generally, plenary power lasts for thirty days from the date the final judgment is signed, but it may be extended if the court overrules certain motions or modifies the judgment while it still has plenary power.

In a recent case, a mother challenged the court’s authority to reform the judgment.  According to the appeals court’s opinion, she had petitioned for the adjudication of the parentage of her child.  Both the mother and the alleged father sought an order adjudicating him to be the child’s father.

The parties reached a partial agreement and went to trial on the remaining issues.

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iStock-483611874If a parent in a Texas child-support case is intentionally unemployed or underemployed resulting in an income significantly less than what they could earn, the court may calculate child support based on their earning potential. Tex. Fam. Code § 154.066(a).  The other parent has the burden of showing that the parent is intentionally unemployed or underemployed.

A father recently challenged a trial court’s finding that he was intentionally unemployed or underemployed and the child-support obligation based upon that finding.

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iStock-848796670Generally, there must be a material and substantial change in circumstances to justify a modification of a Texas custody order. An appeals court recently considered whether a father judicially admitted the existence of a material and substantial change when he objected to the modification sought by the mother, but petitioned, in the alternative, for different modifications.

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iStock-839381426Texas family law includes a presumption that parents should be appointed joint managing conservators.  The law does not require, however, that the parents be given equal possession just because they are joint managing conservators.  Tex. Fam. Code § 153.135.  There is a rebuttable presumption that the standard possession order is in the child’s best interest, but that presumption only applies to children who are at least three years old.  For younger children, the court must consider “all relevant factors.”  The statute specifically requires the court consider who provided care before and during the proceedings, how separation from either party may affect the child, the availability and willingness of the parties to care for the child, and the child’s needs, along with other specified factors. Tex. Fam. Code § 153.254.

A father recently challenged the possession schedule and decision-making authority granted to the mother, arguing in part that the court should have awarded equal time or the standard possession schedule.

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iStock-1175949984Courts often keep siblings together; however, in some Texas child custody cases, it is in the children’s best interest for them to be split up. When one or more children live with one parent and one or more children live with the other parent, each parent may be obligated to pay child support to the other.  A father recently challenged how the court calculated the child support the mother would have to pay him after he received custody of one of their four children. In issuing its ruling, the appellate court’s opinion turned on the definition of “multiple households” under the Texas Family Code.

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