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Modification of Parent-Child Relationship Post-Divorce in Texas

father and daughterIn a Texas child custody decision, the appellate court considered child custody and a petition to modify the parent-child relationship. The couple had married in 2010 and had their first child the next year. They separated and got back together multiple times, but they finally separated a last time in 2012, after police were called to stop a domestic fight.

The wife sought and received a two-year protective order against the husband that stopped him from going within 200 yards of her home, her workplace, or the child’s school, except when it was necessary for visitation. The divorce was finalized in 2013. The wife was named the child’s sole managing conservator, and the father was named possessory conservator with visitation rights.

The wife filed a motion for enforcement and a petition to modify a year later. She claimed her ex had violated the divorce decree by not paying child support, not attending an orientation at the neutral exchange location, and not going to therapy. She asked the court to hold her ex-husband in contempt and confine him. The ex-husband sued to reduce his child support obligation. She then asked for another protective order because the ex-husband had violated the original protective order by harassing her with texts in which he labeled her with derogatory names. A new protective order was granted.

A final order was entered that granted the wife’s request and held the ex-husband in contempt due to failure to pay child support. The visitation schedule was modified, and the father’s request to modify the child support obligation was denied. Both parties filed motions to modify or reform the judgment. The trial court clarified, modifying the father’s possession of the child.

The father appealed without the help of an attorney. He argued that the trial court should have considered telephone records, but he didn’t submit these as part of the record, so the issue was overruled. The father argued that it was a mistake for the trial court not to enforce his subpoenas and that he had vital testimony to present from a detective and others. He again didn’t include the proof in the record, and the issue was overruled. He argued that it was improper for the wife to introduce photocopies of their text messages based on a lack of authentication. This issue was overruled because the wife’s testimony authenticated the texts.

The husband argued he was held in contempt improperly for not paying child support on particular dates, even though he’d not been found guilty on the same dates in a prior contempt proceeding. He didn’t provide support to show there was a prior contempt proceeding, so the issue was overruled. He also argued it was improper for the trial court to order child support that was more than 20% of his take-home pay, and this violated section 154.125(b) of the Family Code.

The appellate court explained that complying with the child support guidelines was discretionary when deciding whether to modify child support. The father argued the lower court had failed to make necessary findings to support a child support award that was more than 20%, but this issue too was overruled by the appellate court. The court explained a trial court isn’t required to make findings when denying a motion to modify child support.

The husband argued that the court had made a mistake in hearing issues that had already been decided. However, he cited to no legal authority or record in making this claim. He also argued it was improper for the lower court to modify its ruling through a clarification. The appellate court found that the trial court retained the authority to modify its own order when it entered the clarification.

The husband disputed the new protective order but offered no support in the record to show that there was insufficient evidence for the protective order. He also argued that the trial court had made a mistake in not appointing a lawyer for him. The appellate court explained that he was represented by an attorney he’d retained to replace his appointed counsel at the hearings, and nothing supported his claim of being denied an appointed attorney.

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:

Johnny Depp, Amber Heard, and a Discussion on Family Violence Protective Orders and Temporary Restraining Orders in Texas, June 9, 2016

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