After a court issues a Texas child support order based on an agreement of the parties, the trial court may only modify the order if there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances. If there has been such a change, the court has the discretion to modify the order. The court’s analysis depends on the resources of the obligor. If the parent paying child support has net monthly resources equal to or less than an identified amount, currently $8,550, the court must base the presumptive award on a percentage of the net resources and the number of children. If the net monthly resources are greater than this amount, then the court has the discretion to order amounts greater than the presumptive award, depending on the parties’ income and the “proven needs” of the children. Thus, the court must determine the proven needs of the children before awarding an amount greater than that set by the guidelines. If the children’s needs exceed the presumptive award, the court allocates the difference between the parties. No party can be required to pay more than 100% of the proven needs of the children. Unfortunately, neither the legislature nor the courts have clearly defined “needs,” but the Texas Supreme Court has stated that needs are not determined by the family’s lifestyle or the parents’ ability to pay.
In a recent case, a father challenged a modification that ordered him to pay an amount greater than the monthly guidelines.
The father also challenged whether there was a material and substantial change in circumstances, but the appeals court readily found that a significant increase in the father’s income since the Agreed Order was sufficient to support a modification.