The trial court has some discretion in determining the modified amount of child support when it has determined that a Texas child support order should be modified. Tex. Fam. Code § 154.125 provides a schedule of percentages that are presumptively applied when the parent’s net monthly resources do not exceed a specified amount. The trial court, however,  may consider the listed factors or “any other reason” to determine the application of those amounts is not in the best interest of the child.  Tex. Fam. Code § 154.123. There must be evidence of the child’s “proven needs” in the record for the court to deviate upwards from the guidelines. Tex. Fam. Code § 154.126.

A father recently challenged a modification to his child support obligation, arguing the trial court improperly deviated from the presumptive amount. According to the appeals court’s opinion, the parties’ 2017 divorce decree obligated the father to pay $1,710 in child support each month for one child (i.e., max child support at the time). In 2018, he petitioned to modify the amount of child support, claiming his income had decreased.

Father Seeks Reduction in Child Support

The father lived in California and worked as a vice president, selling software testing. His base salary was $80,000, but he also earned commissions and a significant bonus (up to 50% of his base salary). The mother had been a homemaker, but had just begun providing catering services at the time of the hearing.  She had earned approximately $1,400 for the one event she had catered at the time of trial.

The trial court ultimately granted the modification and decreased the obligation to $1,350 per month. The order stated that the mother’s monthly net resources were $0 and the father’s were $4,529.49. 29.8% was applied to the first $4,529.49 of the father’s net monthly resources to determine the child support amount instead of the guidelines’ 20% amount.

In its findings of fact and conclusion of law, the court found the child’s proven needs included extracurricular activities. The court also found the father was not entitled to any possession of the child, resulting  an increased need for support. The court further found that the father was entitled to up to $40,000 in bonus each year. The court noted that it had considered several factors, including: the age and needs of the child, the ability of the parents to contribute to his support, the financial resources available to support the child, possession and access, any alimony or spousal maintenance, and the provision of health insurance and payment of medical expenses.

Father Appeals Above-Guideline Child Support

The father appealed, challenging the amount of child support the court ordered him to pay. He had testified that his obligation should be $850 per month, and on appeal argued it should be $905.90, which he calculated based on the guidelines considering an $80,000 salary. He argued that the child needed no more than $650 per month and that there was not any evidence supporting the court’s deviation from the guidelines.

The appeals court found, however, that there was evidence supporting the child-support order. The court noted that undisputed evidence showed the father’s base salary, bonus, and commissions. The mother had testified that the child had expenses related to his participation in golf, ranging from $200 to $800 per month. She testified she had been paying all of the child’s golf expenses and half of his therapy costs of $150 per session (at approximately 4 sessions per month).  She also testified that she had not earned any income other than for the single catering event.  Her itemized proposed support decision indicated she and the child needed approximately $11,272 per month combined.

Appeals Court Affirms, Finding Evidence of Child’s “Proven Needs”

The trial court had specifically noted that it had considered the fact the father was not entitled to possession of the child in determining the amount of child support.  The trial court also found that the child’s proven needs included extracurricular activities. The trial court had therefore considered some of the statutory factors.

The appeals court found there was some substantive and probative evidence supporting the modification and the evidence was legally and factually sufficient for the court to exercise its discretion.  The father had not shown an abuse of discretion by the trial court. The appeals court therefore affirmed the trial court’s order modifying the father’s child support obligation.

Call McClure Law Group About Your Child-Support Case Today

In deciding whether to modify a child support order, the court must consider all relevant factors. It is important for parties to submit strong evidence supporting their position.  If you are seeking or opposing a child support modification, you need an experienced Texas child support attorney on your side.  The attorneys at McClure Law Group have a thorough understanding of the Texas child support guidelines and all aspects of Texas family law.  Call us at 214.692.8200 to schedule your consultation.