Texas Child Support Based on Mother’s Evidence When Father Failed to Appear

iStock-952098878-300x200When a party fails to participate in a Texas custody and child support proceeding, they do not have an opportunity to contest the evidence presented by the other side. The court may render judgment on the evidence presented by the other party.  In a recent case, a mother appealed a child support award that varied from the guidelines based on the evidence of the father’s income and resources she presented after he failed to appear in a modification proceeding.

According to the opinion of the appeals court, an agreed order entered in June 2017 named both parents joint managing conservators of the two minor children and required the father to pay $620 in child support each month. The father petitioned or modification of conservatorship and termination of the child support in early 2020.  In her counterpetition, the mother asked for a recalculation of child support, confirmation of child support arrearages, and modification of conservatorship.

Default Judgment Entered Against Father

The father failed to appear at trial in April 2021.  The court denied all modifications to conservatorship, possession, and parental rights and duties, but did confirm $24,082.48 in arrearages and increased child support to $1,700 per month.

The court entered findings of fact and conclusions of law following a request by the mother.

Mother Appeals

The mother appealed, arguing the child support amount was not supported by the court’s findings.

The child support guidelines provide for 25% of the obligor’s net monthly resource for two children as the presumptive amount that is in the children’s best interest. Tex. Fam. Code § 154.122.  The trial court found $2,300 was 25% of the father’s net monthly resources.  The court also found there was no evidence rebutting the presumption that 25% was in the best interest of the children.  The court acknowledged it was required to provide specific reasons for a variance from the guidelines, but failed to provide findings supporting the amount of the award.  In fact, the trial court even specifically stated no findings were made regarding specific reasons for the variance.

Appeals Court Modifies and Renders New Child-Support Award

The appeals court noted it could not reconcile the findings made by the trial court.  The findings supported an award of $2,300 per month in child support.  The appeals court therefore modified the order to reflect $2,300 in monthly child support.

Additionally, the mother argued the trial court abused its discretion when it denied her other requested modifications because she had provided uncontroverted evidence the father had stopped being part of the children’s lives.  The trial court found the father had not spoken to or seen the children in the nine months before the trial.  The appeals court acknowledged that the findings did not support the denial of the modifications, but also pointed out that they did not unequivocally support the modifications either.  The appeals court was unable to determine the trial court’s reasoning for denying the mother’s modifications and therefore reversed and remanded the order as to conservatorship, possession, and parental rights and duties.

This case shows the potential consequences for failing to appear.  The mother’s evidence regarding the father’s income and resources were accepted by the court without input from the father. The court could not deviate from the guidelines without identifying reasons for the variance.

Child Support Miscalculations Can be Costly – Call McClure Law Group Today

If you are dealing with a custody or child support issue, the knowledgeable Texas child support attorneys at McClure Law Group can help.  Schedule your consultation by calling 214.692.8200.

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