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Erroneous Calculation of Texas Child Support Award

boysIn a recent Texas appellate decision, a woman appealed the amount of the lower court’s award of monthly child support. She argued that it had been erroneously calculated. The case arose when a couple married in 1992 and had two kids. The mother sued for divorce. The court named her and the father as joint managing conservators with standard visitation. The father was ordered to pay $1,460.91 per month in child support, as well as provide health insurance for the kids. This amount was to be paid until their oldest kid either turned 18 or graduated from high school, and then it would be reduced to $1,168.73. The father was also ordered to provide health insurance for both children.

The mother asked for factual findings. The court found that the father had testified he made $174,000.00 in 2013. The court found that the presumptive amount established by the Guidelines was to be applied to his first $8,550.00 of net resources. Any amount beyond that required the court to look at the parties’ income and the child’s proven needs. The lower court calculated the amount based on the Guidelines for both kids.

The mother appealed, arguing that the lower court had conflated the father’s net monthly income with his gross monthly wages to decide child support. The appellate court found that the only issue was whether the lower court had calculated the amount of child support correctly. It noted that the lower court had broad discretion to determine child support, and it would review its decision under an abuse of discretion standard. There is an abuse of discretion if the lower court’s decision is arbitrary, unreasonable, or made without referring to guiding principles.

It further explained that under Texas Family Code section § 154.061(a), the first step of the lower court should have been to calculate the father’s gross annual income. This would be divided by 12 to arrive at monthly gross wages. After net income was calculated by deducting certain taxes, there would be further deductions like health insurance premiums for the child. After that, the court would apply the guidelines to the remaining amount. The law provides that the parent who owes child support will pay 20% of their net monthly income for a single kid, 25% for two kids, 30% for three, and onward. There is some discretion if there are six or more kids.

The mother argued that the father’s net monthly income was more than $8,550, so the guidelines should have been applied to his net monthly resources. The father’s monthly gross wages were $14,500. Since there was no evidence about the child’s proven needs, the trial court didn’t have to consider his actual gross monthly income and apply the cap of $8,550 net monthly resources. However, the appellate court found that there was a miscalculation and that the father’s net monthly resources were $10,430.77, which was more than the presumptive cap.

The appellate court found this to be an abuse of discretion. The mother also argued the father wasn’t entitled to a deduction for what he paid in monthly health insurance premiums. The appellate court found that the lower court should have taken the presumptive net monthly income of $8,550 and deducted his $500 in monthly health insurance premiums from that amount to get the net monthly income.

The net monthly income would be multiplied by 25% to get the child support obligation for two kids. The appellate court reversed as to the calculation of the father’s monthly child support obligation only.

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

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