Dallas Court of Appeals Rules of Child Support Modifications

IN THE INTEREST OF B.E.V. AND B.J.V.

Can a court modify child support obligations when the parent seeking modification provides no historical financial data and asserts only the most general justification for the increase? The answer is no, according to an opinion from August 23, 2013, by the 302nd Judicial District Court in Dallas County, Texas.

In order for the trial court to conclude that there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances warranting a modification of a parent’s monthly child support obligation, the movant must present at least some testimony or other evidence sufficient to enable a trial court to compare the circumstances at the time of the order to be modified with the circumstances existing at the time modification is sought.

The movant in this case, the mother of a minor child, had succeeded in a modification of child support order at the trial court. This increased the child support owed by the child’s father. The father argued that the modification of child support order was based on insufficient evidence and was an abuse of discretion. At the trial court, mother presented no evidence from the year the original child support order was entered against the child’s father. She testified very generally that she was having trouble paying her bills and that the minor child needed clothes, lunch, and soccer fees. She also introduced financial evidence that the minor child’s father deposited $500,000 a year into his accounts.

The Court held that while the statute did not require “complete financial statements” from the year of the original child support order, the movant Mother would have to supply at least testimony concerning her income and expenses and the father’s income and expenses. Because the trial court did not base its opinion on at least some testimony about the original financial situation, the Court held that the trial court had abused its discretion and reversed the modification of child support. To succeed in a modification of child support action, the movant must present at least some financial data about income and expenses at the date of the original order. Without this original data for comparison with current finances, a court will not be able to find that there has been a material change in circumstances and will not be able to grant a modification of child support.