Texas 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.