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Intentional Unemployment or Underemployment and Child Support

Intentional Unemployment or Underemployment and Child Support

Texas takes child support concerns very seriously. When parents are not together, they both remain responsible for supporting their children financially, and child support payments are predicated on each parent’s relative ability to pay. Texas Family Code addresses the issue of one parent being unemployed – or significantly underemployed – intentionally and, thus, paying less child support than he or she has the earning potential to pay. The burden is on the moving parent to demonstrate the other parent’s intentional unemployment or underemployment. Recently, a Texas father challenged a trial court’s ruling that he was intentionally unemployed or underemployed, and the results are telling.

The Case in Question

The family law case in question is complicated, but the basics include that a 2010 case adjudicated the father's parentage and established his child custody payments at $1,500 per month based on his salary as a geologist. The couple got back together years later, and they planned to marry and move out of state for a somewhat better-paying job for the father. The father accepted a voluntary layoff program at his current job in lieu of a lump sum payout amounting to 10 months' worth of salary. Ultimately, the couple did not marry or stay together, and their second child was born in May 2015. Finally, the father did not take the new job out of state because he wanted to remain near his children, and he sought a modification of his 2010 child support order due to unemployment (after paying ten months of $2,137 per month child support payments in accordance with his severance pay).

What Happens Next

The father’s modification request was denied by the trial court, and all of the following apply:

  • When the father fell behind in his child support payments, the mother moved the court for enforcement of his original child support obligation by contempt.

  • The mother alleged that the father was intentionally unemployed and underemployed.

  • The court reduced the father’s payments to $1,100 pending trial.

The Bench Trial

From here, the case went to a bench trial where the judge determined that the father was indeed intentionally and purposefully unemployed and underemployed – ordering him to pay the full $2,137 in child support and to pay the mother’s $77,243 in legal costs related to her family law attorney and other legal fees. The father appealed the decision.

The Father’s Appeal

The father testified that there was virtually no evidence to support the court’s finding of intentional underemployment. The mother – who also works in the oil industry – however, shared ample evidence that he was working well below his earning potential, and the court concurred.

Seek the Experienced Legal Counsel of a Copperas Cove Family Law Attorney

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Bell County is a dedicated Copperas Cove family law attorney who is committed to helping you obtain child custody terms that support your parental rights. Our accomplished legal team is on your side, so please do not wait to contact or call us at 254-501-4040 to learn more about how we can help you today.

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