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In re C.A.W.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

September 7, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF C.A.W. AND C.H.W., CHILDREN

         On Appeal from the 306th District Court Galveston County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 15-FD-2599

          Panel consists of Justices Christopher, Brown, and Wise.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Marc W. Brown, Justice.

         This is an appeal from the trial court's SAPCR[1] order granting a child support modification in favor of appellee C.A.T. ("Mother"). Appellant R.W. ("Father") contends the trial court abused its discretion by: (1) "setting the periodic child support obligation in excess of the statutory [c]hild [s]upport [g]uidelines" and (2) "finding a material and substantial change of circumstances affecting either the parents or the children that would warrant a modification of [Father's] existing child support obligation." We affirm.

         I. Background

         Father and Mother were divorced by final decree in July 2013 in Harris County, Texas. The divorce decree represents a merger of a mediated settlement agreement between Father and Mother. Father and Mother were named joint managing conservators of their two children, C.A.W. and C.H.W. Father was awarded periods of possession and ordered to pay $1, 875.00 in monthly child support to Mother for the benefit of their two children until, for instance, a child reached 18 years of age. Father would then pay $1, 562.50 for the benefit of one child.

         In June 2015, Father filed an amended petition seeking relief regarding C.A.W. By the time of trial, C.A.W. turned eighteen and Father did not pursue his request for relief. In November 2015, Mother filed a first-amended counter-petition to modify parent-child relationship, seeking child support above the statutory guideline from Father for the benefit of C.H.W.[2] This suit was transferred to Galveston County, Texas, and assigned to the trial court.

         The case was tried before the trial court in August 2016. The following facts were adduced at trial. C.H.W. resided with Mother. Father stopped fully exercising his periods of possession of C.H.W. Mother's net monthly income is $2, 116.29 and Father's net monthly income is $23, 200. C.H.W.'s needs were itemized in Exhibit 6, which is entitled "Child[]'s Needs List" (the "List"). The List also itemized the anticipated monthly expenses for C.H.W.'s needs while residing with Mother. The List reflected that C.H.W.'s needs totaled $5, 291.65 per month. Mother did not have the ability to meet C.H.W.'s monthly needs exceeding $1, 700.

         At the conclusion of the bench trial, the trial court announced that increasing child support for C.H.W. was in his best interest:

I find that it is in [C.H.W.'s] best interest-and based on the facts have been presented to me-the child support should be payable in the amount of $3, 500 per month; and I base this upon-I took the $1, 700, which is the maximum; I figured out how much more was over and above the 1710; and I divided it equally between the two of you. Okay? So child support at $3, 500.

         The trial court signed a final order on August 30, 2016, ordering Father to pay $3, 500 in monthly child support.

         Father requested findings in support of the trial court's order by tracking the language of section 154.130[3] of the Texas Family Code. Specifically, Father requested findings regarding whether application of the child support guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate, his monthly net resources, Mother's monthly net resources, the percentage applied to the first $8, 550 of his monthly net resources for child support, and the specific reasons that the amount of support varied from the amount computed by applying the section 154.125[4] percentage guidelines.

         The trial court issued findings of fact and conclusions of law. The court's section 154.130 fact findings stated:

1. The application of the percentage guidelines in this case would be unjust or inappropriate.
2. The net resources of [Father] per month are $23, 200.00.
3. The net resources of [Mother] per month are $2, 166.29.
4. The percentage applied to the first $8, 550.00 of [Father's] net resources for child support is twenty percent.
5. The specific reasons that the amount of support per month ordered by the Court varies from the amount computer by applying the percentage guidelines of section 154.125 of ...

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