Courts 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.
The parents were named joint managing conservators of their four children when they divorced in 2012. The mother was granted the exclusive right to designate their primary residence with a geographic restriction. The father was ordered to pay $1,400 per month in child support. The court subsequently modified the child support to $2,992.50 per month.
Father Seeks Modification
In 2018 the father petitioned for modification, seeking the exclusive right to designate the oldest child’s primary residence and child support from the mother for that child. The parents entered into a mediation agreement, agreeing to custody and that the court would determine child support. They also agreed the father’s net resources exceeded $8,550 for purposes of determining child support.
The trial court named the parents joint managing conservators, with the father having the exclusive right to designate the oldest child’s primary residence and the mother retaining that right for the other children.
The trial court found the mother’s net resources should not include the child support she received from the father. The court ordered the father to pay $2,341 per month for the three youngest children and the mother to pay $167.64 per month for the oldest child.
The father appealed, arguing the trial court erred in not considering the child support he paid when calculating the mother’s net resources, pursuant to Tex. Fam. Code § 154.070.
Defining “Multiple Households”
Tex. Fam. Code § 154.070 provides that where multiple households are due child support, the child support an obligor receives must be added to his or her net resources.
The issue for the court, then, was the meaning of “multiple households.” After considering various child support statutes, the appeals court found the statutes together indicate “multiple households” means households where there are children who are not before the court and whom the obligor has a duty to support. “Multiple households” would therefore include the obligor’s children with other former spouses or partners. In this case, neither parent had children who were not before the court (i.e., children with other former spouses or partners). The appeals court found that the parents were not a “multiple household” under the statute.
The appeals court also noted that the mother was not an “obligor” under any prior order. She was not an obligor until the trial court ordered her to pay child support for the oldest child.
Furthermore, the appeals court noted that reading the statute as the father proposed would be inequitable and therefore contrary to the purpose of the guidelines. Due to the mother’s limited income, including the child support she received from the father would more than triple her net resources. Her income was imputed to the federal minimum wage, with her actual income being just $600 in monthly reimbursement for her foster children, plus the child support.
The appeals court found the trial court did not err in not considering the child support the mother received in calculating the child support she owed.
The appeals court affirmed the trial court’s order.
Seek Legal Advice on Nuanced Child-Support Laws
Child support can grow more complicated with multiple children, especially if they do not all live together. If you are involved in a child support dispute, the experienced Texas child support attorneys and McClure Law Group can help. Call us at 214.692.8200 to set up a meeting to talk about your case.