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SSI Should Not Be Considered in Calculating Texas Child Support

In calculating child support, a Texas court must consider each parent’s net resources.  The Texas Family Code defines which resources are to be included, and which types of resources are excluded from consideration.  In a recent case, a wife challenged an order to pay child support and medical support, partly because the court had improperly considered certain resources.

The husband testified that he lacked health insurance and did not have access to private insurance.  Although the wife did not appear at the trial, the husband was previously the trustee of her supplemental social security income (SSI) and testified that he believed that she still received $750 per month.  There was no other evidence of her income or ability to work.

The trial court designated the husband as the sole managing conservator of the children and ordered the wife to pay child and medical support.  The court calculated the payment based on her SSI.

The wife appealed, arguing that the trial court had not made findings of fact related to the status or availability of insurance coverage for the children or how it was to be awarded.  The appeals court noted that the court’s findings of fact did not address insurance coverage, but the decree did.  The trial court had found that the parents did not have access to reasonably priced private health insurance.  The court ordered the father to maintain coverage for the children under a governmental medical assistance program and to pay all fees and premiums while child support was payable.  The wife was ordered to pay $100 per month for medical support and child support.

The appeals court noted that findings of fact should be filed as a separate document, but findings included in a decree or judgment are given effect if they do not conflict with findings that are separately filed.  The appeals court found that the necessary findings of fact were included in the decree and rejected the wife’s argument that the court failed to make findings of fact regarding health care.

The wife also argued that the trial court erred in calculating her monthly payment.  She argued that the court ordered her to pay more than 9% of her annual income.  The husband argued that the SSI income should have been excluded from the wife’s net resources, and the court should instead have applied the wage presumption in Texas Family Code 154.068.  The $100 per month payment would have been less than 9% of the wife’s resources based on the presumption.  He alternatively offered a voluntary remittitur to $22.50 per month.

In calculating child support, the court must determine the net resources of each party.  The trial court could not, however, apply the presumption.  The presumption applies when there is an “absence of evidence of a party’s net resources.”  There was evidence that the wife received SSI, which also constituted evidence of a disability. The appeals court rejected the application of a presumption of income based on the federal minimum wage at a 40-hour work week when there was evidence in the record that the wife had a disability.  There was no evidence in the record regarding the extent of her disability, however.  The appeals court remanded this issue to the trial court to resolve the factual issues.

The appeals court also found that the trial court abused its discretion in failing to include provisions addressing the children reaching majority, graduating from high school, or becoming emancipated.  A child support order for multiple children must provide for the adjustment of the remaining support in accordance with the child support guidelines upon the termination of support for the other children.  The appeals court remanded for the trial court to correct this issue.

An experienced child support attorney can help ensure that appropriate evidence regarding income is presented to the trial court.  If you are involved in a child support dispute, call McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200.