Appeal from the 387th District Court Fort Bend County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. 06-DCV-147524
consists of Justices Jamison, Wise, and Jewell.
Hill Jamison Justice
post-answer default, Billy Ray Reagins, Sr. appeals from the
trial court's order modifying his parent-child
relationship with his minor child. Among other things, the
court ordered Reagins to pay child support to the child's
mother, Sheila Walker, and to provide health insurance for
the child. In two issues on appeal, Reagins contends that (1)
the trial court abused its discretion in setting the amount
of child support because there was insufficient evidence
presented to establish Reagins' net resources and (2) he
received ineffective assistance of counsel. Concluding the
evidence was legally insufficient to establish Reagins'
net resources and Reagins is not permitted to complain
regarding ineffective assistance under the circumstances of
this case, we affirm in part and reverse and remand in part
for further proceedings.
and Walker both filed pleadings to modify the trial
court's 2011 child support order. Reagins asked for the
exclusive right to establish the primary residence of the
child and for Walker to pay him child support. Walker alleged
a change in circumstances necessitated an increase in
Reagins' child support obligation retroactive to the
filing of this suit and requested he be required to provide
health insurance and pay half of all uninsured health
expenses for the child. Reagins also filed a motion for
enforcement of his rights as joint managing conservator, with
which he claimed Walker was interfering.
to trial, Reagins' original counsel filed a motion to
withdraw, and a new attorney filed a motion to substitute
counsel. Neither Reagins nor his original counsel appeared
for the trial setting. Although new counsel did appear, the
trial court determined that defects prevented original
counsel from withdrawing and new counsel from
participating. Trial thereafter commenced without
Reagins or any counsel representing him participating.
beginning of trial, the judge granted Walker's motions to
dismiss Reagins' modification and enforcement actions and
proceeded to hear evidence on Walker's claims. The only
witness called was Walker. No exhibits were offered into
testified that she had not been provided any documentation
from Reagins proving the amount of his salary, such as
paycheck stubs or federal tax returns. She therefore
conducted internet searches and discovered that Reagins is a
petroleum engineer with three degrees, at least one of which
is a master's degree. She additionally found out that
Reagins "worked for GE" and began working there in
October 2011. Walker further stated that she recently
"found out he does go overseas to work" and had
been doing that for several years. Walker testified that she
"investigat[ed] with regard to what a petroleum engineer
might make with his experience . . . and so forth" and
found a range of between $127, 000 to $130, 000. She then
stated that it was her belief that Reagins made a minimum of
$127, 000 a year. Walker additionally testified that Reagins
has two other minor children, both of whom attend private
school. She testified to the cost of the private schools, but
she did not state how she obtained any of this information.
She said that Reagins apparently made too much money to
qualify for mediation at the DRC. Walker also testified that
Reagins had not provided her with information concerning his
health insurance coverage.
order, the trial court found that Walker's material
allegations were true, modification is in the best interest
of the child, Reagins' income is $10, 584 per month, and
he has a total of three minor children. On the basis of these
findings and the statutory child support guidelines, the
court ordered Reagins to pay $1, 534 per month to Walker for
support of their minor child. The court further ordered
Reagins to pay $3, 068 in retroactive child support, to
provide health insurance for the child, and to pay half of
all unreimbursed medical expenses.
challenges the trial court's child support calculation
and contends he received ineffective assistance of counsel.
He does not, however, challenge the trial court's
dismissal of his Motion to Modify or his Motion for
Enforcement, and he does not challenge the trial court's
orders relating to health insurance and expenses.
first issue, Reagins asserts the trial court abused its
discretion in setting the amount of his child support
obligation because there was insufficient evidence to
calculate his net resources. We agree. Walker's
generalized testimony based on internet searches was not
sufficient to support the net resources calculation, and none
of the other arguments made by Walker are supported by the
Texas Family Code allows a trial court to modify a support
order if circumstances have "materially and
substantially changed" since the date of the order's
rendition under certain conditions. See Tex. Fam.
Code § 156.401(a)(1), (2). A change in the
obligor-parent's income can constitute a material and
substantial change in circumstances. See Plowman v.
Ugalde, No. 01-14-00851-CV, 2015 WL 6081666, at *4-5
(Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] Oct. 15, 2015, no pet.) (mem.
op.) (citing Rumscheidt v. Rumscheidt, 362 S.W.3d
661, 666 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2011, no pet.), and
Starck v. Nelson, 878 S.W.2d 302, 308 (Tex.
App.-Corpus Christi 1994, no writ)).
trial court possesses broad discretion in determining whether
to modify a child support order. Friermood v.
Friermood, 25 S.W.3d 758, 760 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th
Dist.] 2000, no pet.). Accordingly, on appeal, we will not
disturb the trial court's determination absent a clear
abuse of discretion. Worford v. Stamper, 801 S.W.2d
108, 109 (Tex. 1990) (per curiam); Friermood, 25
S.W.3d at 760. An abuse of discretion only occurs when the
trial court acts without reference to any guiding rules or
legal principles. Worford, 801 S.W.2d at 109;
see also Downer v. Aquamarine Operators, Inc., 701
S.W.2d 238, 24142 (Tex. 1985). Under the abuse of discretion
standard, the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence
are not to be considered as independent grounds of error, but
as relevant factors in assessing whether the trial court did
in fact abuse its discretion. Hardin v. Hardin, 161
S.W.3d 14, 19 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2004, no pet.).
When applying the abuse-of-discretion standard in this
context, we ask first whether the trial ...