Articles Posted in Child Support

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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.

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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.

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wedding ringsIn a recent Texas child support case, a mother appealed after the trial court enforced a mediated settlement agreement. She argued it was an error to enforce it because:  (1) it included a child support provision that violated public policy, (2) the mother took back her consent before it was approved, and (3) she wasn’t allowed to give evidence to bolster her family violence exception argument.

The case arose several years after a divorce. The parents mediated the matter and signed an irrevocable mediated settlement agreement, in which they agreed to different terms related to child support. The mediated settlement agreement included a provision under which there would be a limited standstill period, during which nobody would ask for child support increases.

The couple had signed the agreement and filed it. The agreement stated that it was meant to be a full and final settlement and that the parents had voluntarily signed it.

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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.

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classroomIn a recent Texas appeal, a father appealed a judgment that awarded the mother post-majority expenses for their child. The case arose from the parents entering into an agreed final decree of divorce and settlement affecting the parent-child relationship. There was a section titled “college education.” In this provision, the parties agreed that the father would pay 60% of the expenses required for their kids to enroll at and attend a public or private college, university, or graduate school as long as the kid remained enrolled in a course of study leading to a degree. The expenses were to include tuition, room and board, books, and other incidental fees. The father was to pay the school directly or reimburse the mother for any payments she made over her 40% share.

The college education provision wasn’t a part of the sections on property distribution or child support in the agreement. The parents signed the decree, thereby agreeing to all of its provisions.

In 2015, the mother sued to enforce the child support order, asking for reimbursement for health expenses and insurance premiums, in addition to college expenses. She later filed amended motions. The father filed an answer, asserting she wasn’t entitled to post-majority support, since she didn’t ask for contractual relief. He argued that the only relief sought was enforcement, rather than breach of contract.

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Downs syndromeIn a recent Texas appellate decision, a father raised four issues related to a lower court’s provision of child support for his adult disabled child, among other things. The couple was married in 1992 and had two kids, TWG and a minor daughter, EAG. In 2008, the father left the mother to move in with his girlfriend, only to move back in a few months later, claiming the other relationship was over. The mother and father signed a lease with a term of one year, but in another few months, the father left for his girlfriend again, which saddled the mother with $4,000 for the remainder of the lease.

The father had a child with his girlfriend and didn’t pay child support to either of his minor children with the mother until 2011, when the mother asked for child support through the Attorney General’s Office. The father began paying monthly child support but provided no other financial assistance and eventually sued for divorce. The mother counter-petitioned, asking for child support for both kids, a disproportionate share of the community estate, and damages from the father’s girlfriend.

The mother explained to the court that her adult son, TWG, had agenesis of the corpus collosum, a condition in which the fibers linking the right brain to the left brain had never developed. The son lived with his mother and would need support his whole life. He’d never gone to college and wasn’t employed. He saw a doctor every year and spent the night with the father in 2015 2-3 times in total. He required adult care, which cost $500 per month, and got a certain amount in SSI and SNAP benefits.

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Many people ask: Can my children decide where they want to live in a divorce? There are many ways for a court to consider children’s input about where they want to live.

The first way is simply allowing children to talk to the judge. Section 153.009 of the Texas Family Code allows a parent to request that a judge interview the child in chambers to determine the child’s wishes regarding certain aspects of custody. If a child is over the age of 12, it is mandatory that the judge interview the child on the request of a parent. A judge may also interview a child under age 12. It is important to know that 12-year old children cannot actually decide where they where they want to live. They will not be providing the “final say.” Instead, the child’s wishes will just be one factor that the Court considers in addition to other important information. Another thing to keep in mind is that this process can be traumatic for children. Sitting in a judge’s chambers can be very intimidating for a child, and a child could be negatively impacted by the pressure of such a weighty decision. However, many times, a child’s input can be very important in a child custody dispute, and so there are other means to obtain the information indirectly.

Another way to get a child’s input in child custody litigation is through a Child Custody Evaluation. In Texas, the only mental health professional that may make recommendations as to possession and conservatorship for children is a child custody evaluator. The Texas Family Code provides very detailed requirements for a child custody evaluation, which includes interviews of each parent and anyone living in a house with the child, interviews of the child, and observations of the home environment and each parent’s interactions with the child. The child custody evaluator will therefore be able to talk to children about where they want to live, and will do so in conjunction with a much broader study into the children’s home environment and what will ultimately be in the best interests of the children.

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boy holding flowersIn Interest of TAM involved requests to modify the parent-child relationship. The child in question was 11 when an order of modification was entered for the second time. The first time the parents asked for modification resulted in both parents keeping joint managing conservator status and lots of the rights they’d had in the original divorce decree.

However, that order gave the father two exclusive rights previously held by the mother, including the exclusive right to choose the child’s primary residence in the county. The court ordered that the mother wouldn’t pay child support at the time, given that she wasn’t able to support herself.

In 2012, the mother petitioned to modify the father’s right to designate residence. She’d moved to a different city, gotten a job, and wanted to modify custody so that the child could live with her. She believed that these changes were material and substantial and believed that modifying custody was in the child’s best interest. She also asked for child support. The father counter-petitioned, asking for a modification of child support from $0 to an amount provided by the child support guidelines

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handicap signsIn the Matter of Luna and Vicente Luna considered an appeal from a final divorce decree in 2015, which was memorialized in a written decree that granted a couple’s divorce, divided their property, and provided for support and conservatorship of their adult disabled child. The couple had married in 1980 and separated in 2014. During their marriage, the father started a construction company.

By the time of the divorce, the couple disagreed about the company’s ownership. The father claimed he’d sold half of the company to his son, but he later testified the son was an employee earning $23/hr. During cross-examination, the son admitted the name certificate did not include his name until 2015, and his father had responsibility for paying payroll taxes and had authority to write checks.

At trial, the father testified the construction company had paid no federal income taxes, nor had it entered profit and loss statements into the record. The total of the evidence came from introducing banking records for the construction company for 2013, 2014, and 2015.

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childIn the Texas appellate case of In re Aer, a father appealed a divorce decree in connection with an award of retroactive child support and the distribution of marital property. The mother and father sued for divorce. The court held a bench trial and appointed the couple joint managing conservators of the children. The mother was the parent with the exclusive right to designate the children’s primary address. She was also awarded over $50,000 in retroactive child support, attorneys’ fees, and 80% of the marital estate (according to the father).

The father appealed, claiming that the evidence for the child support award and property distribution was legally and factually insufficient. The appellate court explained that it would consider whether the trial court had enough evidence upon which to use its discretion and whether it had made a mistake in applying its discretion. It further explained that a trial court has broad discretion to award attorneys’ fees under Texas Family Code § 106.002. The mother’s attorney had provided testimony regarding his fees and claimed that the high fees were driven by the father’s conduct in not answering timely discovery and dumping unorganized documents on him. The court found there was no abuse of discretion in awarding $130,000 in fees to the mother.

The father also argued that the mother didn’t have pleadings to support her request for retroactive child support. The mother’s attorney had asked during closing arguments that child support be paid retroactively to June 2012, due to the father’s intentional unemployment or underemployment during that period. However, the father had not objected at trial to either the closing arguments or the mother’s request to include an order to pay retroactive child support, nor did he object at the time the trial court signed the divorce decree, including retroactive child support. The court concluded these complaints weren’t preserved for review.

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