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Modification of Child Support in Texas

father and sonTroiani v. Troiani is a Texas case in which a father appealed an order granting the mother’s petition to modify the parent-child relationship and enforce a child support award. The father challenged the trial court’s order, which required that he pay private school tuition for his son.

The divorce decree was entered in 2013 and required the father to pay the mother $1,875 each month in child support. The court found his monthly resources were $7,500. The decree also awarded the mother real property and ordered her to refinance the mortgage and secure it in her sole name by a particular date or else sell it. The court also ordered the mother and father to execute a deed of trust to secure assumption so that the father could start foreclosure proceedings if the mother became delinquent in paying the mortgage.

The father later filed a motion to enforce the property division, payment of debt, and child visitation arrangements. The court ordered that neither of the parents owed the other money or debt besides what was specifically described in the order in connection with the real property. It ordered the father to assume payment of the mortgage and ordered that the mother wouldn’t be responsible for repayment. It also ordered the mother to vacate the home and pay rent to the father. The order didn’t specify who would receive the proceeds from the property sale.

In the spring of 2014, the mother filed a petition to modify the parent-child relationship and ask that the court increase child support payments. She also asked the court to order the father to pay her sale proceeds if the real property sold. The trial court conducted a hearing at which the father testified. He owned his own business and received a salary of more than $82,000 from it. He’d paid about $900 per month for private school tuition for his son during the prior school year, even though the court hadn’t ordered it.

The trial court ordered the father to pay tuition costs for the upcoming year and to pay the proceeds from the property sale to the mother. The father moved for a new trial, which was overruled. He appealed.

On appeal, the father argued that the modification of child support wasn’t supported by enough evidence and that there was no evidence that the child needed more support. He also argued that the lower court hadn’t made the findings required by Texas Family Code section 154.130, and the lower court didn’t have the statutory information necessary to award child support that was greater than the statutory guidelines.

The appellate court explained that Texas Family Code section 156.401 allows for the modification of a child support order if a child’s circumstances had materially and substantially changed since the date an order was rendered. The trial court is required to look at the children’s circumstances, both at the time of the divorce decree and at the time of the modification trial.

When an obligor’s resources are greater than $7,500 per month, the court is supposed to apply a presumptive percentage guideline to the first $7,500 under section 154.126(a). This guideline is about a quarter of the net resources. The trial court can order added child support as appropriate, and if the child’s needs are greater than the presumptive amount, the court is supposed to subtract the presumptive amount from their needs and allocate the responsibility to meet those needs between the parties. The record needs to show that the child has proven needs. In this case, the father’s resources had increased since the divorce to $11,107.67 per month. The court explained that by ordering the father to pay for private school, the trial court had increased the father’s obligation to $2,775, which was more than the presumptive child support amount.

The appellate court found that the mother had presented no evidence that private school was a proven need of the child. In order to establish it as a proven need, the mother needed to present evidence to show that private school was something the particular child needed or particularly benefited from having. The court concluded the trial court abused its discretion.

However, it found that the trial court had not impermissibly altered the division of property, and the order related to real property was enforceable.

If you want to modify a child support award, or your child’s other parent does, contact the Texas attorneys at the McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200.

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