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Texas Child Support Modification Deviates from Statutory Guidelines

childIn a recent Texas appellate case, the lower court’s SAPCR order granting a child support modification for the mother was appealed by the father. The father argued the trial court shouldn’t have set the periodic child support obligation to be more than the statutory child support guidelines provided and found a material and substantial change in circumstances affecting either the parents or the kids that would warrant a modification.

The mother and father got divorced in 2013 after coming to a mediated settlement agreement. They were named joint managing conservators of their kids. The father was allowed to have possession for certain periods, and he had to pay the mother monthly child support until they reached 18 years old. There were two kids.

The father sought relief regarding one of the kids when she turned 18. However, he didn’t pursue it at the time of trial. The mother counter-petitioned, asking to modify the parent-child relationship and asking for child support that exceeded the statutory guideline for the other child.

At trial, it was determined that the second child lived with the mother, but the father had stopped exercising his right of possession. The mother’s monthly income was a little over $2,000, while the father’s was over $23,000. The kid’s needs were itemized, as were monthly expenses, and the needs were more than $5,000 per month, which the mother couldn’t meet.

The trial court found that an increase in child support for the second child was in his best interest. Child support was divided so that the father had to make a $3,500 payment to the mother. The father asked for findings based on the language of section 154.130. He asked for findings about whether applying the child support guidelines would be unfair or inappropriate. The findings were that the applying the percentage guidelines would be unfair, among other things.

The father appealed. He argued the judgment should be reversed because there was no evidence that the child had proven needs. When an obligor’s monthly net resources are more than $8,500, the trial court is supposed to presumptively apply the percentage guidelines to the part of the obligor’s net resources that isn’t more than that amount. The court is allowed to order more child support as appropriate, based on income and the child’s proven needs.

What counts as a child’s proven need isn’t defined under the code. The appellate court explained that the guiding principle is what the child’s best interests dictate. The lower court is supposed to specify these. The appellate court disagreed with the father, noting that there was a list clearly itemizing the son’s needs and how much they cost, and it separated out the needs of the son from those of his mother.

The father also argued that it was improper for the trial court to order a modification when there wasn’t evidence of a material, substantial change of situation that affected the child or the parents. Whoever asked for a change had to show a material and substantial change in circumstances or that three years had passed since the divorce, and the monthly child support obligation was different from what would be awarded under the statutory child support guidelines by 20% or $100.

The lower court’s judgment was affirmed.

If your divorce involves matters related to child support, call the Texas attorneys at the McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200.

More Blog Posts:

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Divorce and Taxes – What to do if your ex-spouse botched your joint tax return, May 31, 2016

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