When 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.
Father Falls Behind on Support Payments
The aunt moved to enforce the child support in 2019. She alleged the father had not complied with the 2006 contempt order because he failed to pay the support timely. She requested a cumulative judgment to include the amounts due under the contempt order as well as the arrearages and interest that accrued after the 2006 judgment.
At the hearing, the aunt testified the father had not paid any support. There was evidence of the father’s gross income for the years from 2013 to 2018 and the aunt testified regarding his earnings in 2019.
At the hearing, the father argued the original order only ordered him to make a single payment, not monthly support. The trial court ultimately found him in contempt and ordered him to 30 days in jail, suspended, and placed him on six-months’ community supervision.
The court found that the father owed a total of $37,653.79 in child-support arrearages. The court ordered him to pay $100 each month until the amount owed was paid off, increasing to $250 each month when the child was emancipated. The trial court also found the father owed $15,008.96 in medical-support arrearages and ordered him to pay $50 per month. This payment was to increase to $100 each month after the child was emancipated. The court also awarded attorney’s fees to the aunt.
Aunt Appeals Ruling
The aunt appealed, arguing the court abused its discretion in ordering repayment that would exceed the two-year limit established by Tex. Fam. Code § 158.004 when the father had not provided evidence showing paying the award off in two years would result in an unreasonable hardship.
The appeals court agreed that the payment schedule set by the trial court exceeded two years. It would allow the father to pay the medical support over 25 years and the child support over 30 years. The appeals court found nothing in the record providing a factual basis for a hardship exception allowing the father that long to pay off the arrearages. The appeals court found the trial court abused its discretion in allowing such a long payment plan without finding there would be an unreasonable hardship if the father were required to pay based on the statutory requirements. The appeals court reversed the portion of the order setting forth the arrearage payment schedule and remanded for further proceedings.
Dealing with Child-Support Issues? Call McClure Law Group
If you are dealing with a child-support issue, you should speak to an experienced Texas child support attorney. Schedule a consultation with McClure Law Group by calling 214.692.8200.