Court orders in Texas almost always provide for automatic decreases in the event one child turns 18, graduates high school, etc. A few cases have upheld automatic future INCREASES in child support. In re D.S., 76 S.W.3d 512 (Tex. App. - Houston [14th Dist.] 2002, no pet.) involved two parents who were physicians. The parents entered into an agreed order that provided that the father would pay $500 a month child support during his three years of medical residency and then pay $1,500 a month beginning on the date he would be expected to enter private practice. The father decided to take a fellowship after his three years of residency and he argued that his pay was a lot less than anticipated and he sought to reduce his $1,500 per month child support obligation that had automatically kicked in. The trial court refused to modify the prior order and the father appealed. The Houston Fourteenth Court of Appeals held: Automatic increases in child support are generally unenforceable ... Read More >
Beware of the New Year: A Mistake in the Year Might Not Be Fixable
Every new year results in mistakes because we are so used to writing or typing "2014" instead of "2015." Rawlins v. Rawlins, 324 S.W.3d 852, 855 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2010, no pet.) is an example of how a mistake in the year used in an order can screw a client and not be fixable later. This case also includes a sublime ass chewing of an attorney for being a sleaze bag. The parents were divorced on January 9, 2007. Over two years later, on March 12, 2009, Mr. Rawlings filed a motion for judgment nunc pro tunc, alleging that the Agreed Final Decree of Divorce contained a clerical error in the date child support was to begin. The divorce decree said child support started January 5, 2006 instead of January 5, 2007. The mother argued that the error was not a clerical error but a judicial error, and the trial court could not correct by judgment nunc pro tunc. At the hearing on the requested nunc pro tunc order, Mr. Rawlings testified he and his lawyer appeared on January 9, 2007 ... Read More >
New Appellate Case on Intentional Under Employment
Reprinted from the November 14, 2014 Mongoose newsletter. Some judge named "Pratt" was just reversed in Reddick v. Reddick, No. 01-12-00576-CV (Tex. App. - Houston [1st Dist.] 10/23/2014). This case is an excellent reminder that not every parent who could in theory earn more should be found to be intentionally underemployed. Click here to read the entire case, which provides this summary of the law: A parent who is qualified to obtain gainful employment cannot evade his or her child support obligation by voluntarily remaining unemployed or underemployed. Concurrently, the court must consider a parent's right to pursue his or her own happiness with a parent's duty to support and provide for his or her child. The court must engage in a case-by-case determination to decide whether child support should be set based on earning potential as opposed to actual earnings. Once the obligor has offered proof of his or her current wages, the obligee bears the burden of demonstrating ... Read More >
Maximum Guideline Child Support Increases 9/1/2013
On September 1, 2013, the cap on maximum monthly net resources used to calculate guideline child support in Texas will rise from $7,500 per month to $8,550 per month. This means that the maximum guideline child support amount will go from $1,500 per month for one child to $1,710; from $1,875 for two children to $2,137.50; and from $2,250 for three children to $2,565 (assuming the obligor has no other children he or she is obligated to support). Texas Family Code Section 154.125 requires the Office of the Attorney General to adjust the maximum amount of monthly net resources used to calculate guideline child support every six years based on increases in the consumer price index. ... Read More >
A divorce decree cannot order a party who wants to file a modification to pay the other parent $25,000 on the date the modification is filed or face dismissal.
Unbelievably, the trial court followed this provision and dismissed the wife’s modification suit. The San Antonio Court of Appeals did not reach the issue on whether this provision is void as against public policy and instead held that the provision violates Family Code Sec. 154.124(c) which says agreements concerning child support are not enforceable as a contract. Since this provision limited the mother’s ability to seek modification of child support, it was not enforceable and the case should not have been dismissed. In re I.R.H. and Z.T.H., No. 04-12-00366-CV (Tex. App. - San Antonio 5/1/2013). ... Read More >
Fishy facts support denial of mother’s motion for enforcement for failure to pay child support.
A 2004 paternity order required the father to pay $500 a month child support through the SDU and he clearly had made no payments to the SDU prior to April 2010. So, how did the mother lose this enforcement suit? The father testified that his signature on the “agreed” paternity order was forged and he testified he did not know he was ordered to pay through the SDU. The father testified that the mother had agreed for him to pay support through direct deposit into her bank account or by use of his debit card. The father introduced evidence of these deposits. The mother should count herself lucky she was not sanctioned for bringing this enforcement action. In the Interest of K.S.H.U., No. 05-12-00448-Cv (Tex. App. - Dallas 5/21/2013). ... Read More >
Divorce decree without step-down language terminated child support when “any” child turned 18, even if the younger child was still a minor and still in high school
This 1993 divorce involved two children, yet the decree ordered the father to pay child support, “...until the date of the earliest occurrence of one of the following events: a. any child reaches the age of eighteen years,... b. any child marries...” There was no step down provision that said “thereafter he pays $xxxx.xx until...” Judge Farr and then the First Court of Appeals ruled that the decree means what it says and the father’s child support obligation ended in 2003 when the oldest child turned 18 even though the younger child did not turn 18 until 2008. Thus, the trial court properly denied the mother’s request to confirm a child support arrearage for payments due after 2003. Smith v. Goodrum, 1st Court of Appeals, 01-11-00784-CV, 4/18/2013. Moral: always include the full step-down provision in child support orders. ... Read More >