Sometimes a change in circumstances causes a parent to want to change the amount of child support they are paying or receiving. There are limitations on when a Texas child support order may be modified, however. When the parties had previously agreed to a child support order that is different from what would have been awarded under the child support guidelines, the court may only modify it if there have been material and substantial changes to the circumstances of the child or a person affected by the order. The trial court must look at the circumstances at the time of the order and compare them to the current circumstances. There must be relevant financial information for both periods in the record, as seen in a recent Texas appeal.
The parents had previously entered into a mediated settlement agreement (MSA). The trial court signed an agreed order naming them joint managing conservators and setting forth visitation schedules and child support obligations. The father was required to pay $490 per month until the child turned 18. The father’s occupation and income were not identified in the MSA or the agreed order. The MSA stated the mother was self-employed but did not provide details.
The mother petitioned for a modification of the child support about five years later. The father did not file an answer or appear at the trial. At the trial, the mother submitted documents from the child’s doctors detailing his diagnoses. She attested that the child saw a psychiatrist every two weeks. She testified the child’s schedule on school days needed to be almost exactly the same each day. She stated he needed “a very high level of care.” She said she thought his disability would keep her from full-time employment.
She testified the father worked as a conductor for a railroad company. She provided a case number for another case involving the father and a second child, but she did not include any documentation from that proceeding. She alleged the agreed order in that case stated a finding that the father had a net monthly income of more than $5,400. She stated the agreed order required him to pay $600 per month.
She sought an increase to $1,200 per month for her child. She asked the court to find the child was disabled and would need continuous care past the age of 18.
The court entered a default judgment. It found there had been a substantial and material change in circumstances. It also found the child would require “substantial care and personal supervision….” The court ordered an increase to $1,200 per month that would continue beyond the child’s 18th birthday.
The father appealed, arguing the mother had not provided evidence of the parties’ financial resources to justify the change in amount or an extension beyond the age of 18.
Since the agreed order included a different amount than what would have been awarded under the child support guidelines, the circumstances of the child or a person affected by the order must have materially and substantially changed since the order.
At trial, the wife had stated that the award she sought would be higher than that under the guidelines if the father was earning the amount in the agreed order she referenced. The appeals court noted there was no information as to the father’s current income or his income at the time of the previous order.
The appeals court found the list of the child’s diagnoses was insufficient to show that he required substantial care and personal supervision, as required to be found disabled under the Family Code. The appeals court also suggested that a statement that a six-year-old needed a “very high level of care” failed to show how he needed more care than what would be needed for a typical child of his age. The diagnoses’ list did not indicate the severity of the conditions.
The appeals court found there was insufficient evidence to support the modification. It remanded the case for further proceedings.
A party seeking a modification needs to present evidence of the changed circumstances. If their expenses or income has changed, they should present evidence of expenses or income at the time of the original order, as well as evidence of what they are at the time the order is sought.
If you have a child support issue, one of our skilled Texas child support attorneys can help you. Call McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200 to discuss your case.
More Blog Posts: