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In re C.M.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

May 7, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF C.M., A CHILD

          On Appeal from the 312th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 1999-37893

          Panel consists of Chief Justice Frost and Justices Zimmerer and Hassan

          MEMORANDUM MAJORITY OPINION

          Meagan Hassan Justice

         This is an appeal from income withholding orders for child support arrearages and attorney's fees. Father contends that (1) "the trial court abused its discretion in the underlying order because the underlying relief has previously been litigated by the parties ending in a final judgment denying much of the requested relief in a binding arbitration proceeding;" and (2) "the trial court abused its discretion when [it] entered an order that identifies the payments as child support and authorizing wage withholding and a child support arrearage finding." We affirm.

         Background

         Our recitation of the background of the case is constrained by the appellate record presented to us. We draw the following from the limited record.

         Father and Mother divorced, and the trial court signed a Final Decree of Divorce in September 1999. Father and Mother went to arbitration, and a final arbitration award was issued in May 2012. In September 2012, the trial court signed an Order Modifying Final Decree Of Divorce Dated September 24, 1999 Incorporating Final Arbitration Decision And Award.

         In May 2015, Mother filed a First Amended Motion To Enforce Additional Child Support Order By Contempt. She alleged that Father failed to make payments for their child C.M.'s health care expenses (payments for health insurance and 50% of uninsured health care expenses) as additional child support as required by the 1999 Final Decree of Divorce and the 2012 Order Modifying Final Decree Of Divorce Dated September 24, 1999 Incorporating Final Arbitration Decision And Award. She alleged Father committed 181 separate violations of the 1999 Final Decree of Divorce and the 2012 Order Modifying Final Decree Of Divorce Dated September 24, 1999 Incorporating Final Arbitration Decision And Award when he failed to pay for C.M.'s health care expenses from 2005 to 2014. Mother stated: "[Father]'s total arrearage as of May 19, 2014 is $30, 296.00, which includes cash medical support, uninsured health care expenses and interest. [Mother] requests confirmation of all arrearages and rendition of judgment plus interest on arrearages, as well as attorney's fees, and costs incurred in this case. [Mother] requests the Court to order income withheld for the arrearages, attorney's fees, costs, and interest."

         In August 2015, Mother filed a Motion To Confirm Additional Child Support Arrearage. She essentially made the same allegations and requests contained in her First Amended Motion To Enforce Additional Child Support Order By Contempt. A hearing was held on March 1, 2017, but there is no reporter's record of the hearing. The parties do not dispute that "the case was tried by stipulation."

         On June 22, 2017, the trial court signed an Order On First Amended Motion To Enforce Additional Child Support Orders By Contempt For Failure To Pay Cash Medical Support And Reimbursement Of Uninsured Medical Expenses Granting Judgment For Arrearages (hereinafter, the "Order To Enforce Additional Child Support"). The order provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

6. FINDINGS
The Court finds that [Father] was ordered to make periodic payments of cash medical support and reimbursement of uninsured medical expenses, in an order entitled Final Decree of Divorce entered by this Court on September 24, 1999, and in an order entitled Order Modifying Final Decree of Divorce dated September 24, 1999 incorporated [sic] Final Arbitration Decision and Award entered by this Court on September 21, 2012, that . . . states in relevant part as follows:
. . . 'Health Insurance'
IT IS ORDERED that medical support shall be provided for the child as follows:
1. [FATHER]'s RESPONSIBILITY - . . . [FATHER] shall, at all times, provide medical support the for the child. IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that, as additional child support, [FATHER] shall provide medical support for the parties' child, for as long as child support is payable under the terms of this decree, as set out herein.
3. INSURANCE THROUGH [MOTHER]'s EMPLOYMENT . . . - . . . [FATHER] is ORDERED to pay to [MOTHER] . . . the cost of insuring the child on [Mother]'s health insurance plan, beginning on the first day of the month . . . . Currently medical reimbursement is $142.00 per month and [FATHER] is ORDERED to pay [MOTHER] $142.00 per month, as additional child support, on the first day of every month beginning on October 1, 1999, and continuing as long as child support is payable under the terms of this Decree.
11. PAYMENT OF UNINSURED EXPENSES - IT IS ORDERED that the party who pays for a health-care expense on behalf of the child shall submit to the other party, within ten days of receiving them, all forms, receipts, bills, and explanations of benefits paid reflecting the uninsured portion of the healthcare expenses the paying party incurs on behalf of the child. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED as additional child support that, within ten days after the nonpaying party receives the explanation of benefits stating benefits paid, that party shall pay his or her share of the uninsured portion of the health-care expenses . . . .
The Court further finds that [Father] was ordered to reimburse [Mother] for fifty (50) percent of uninsured medical expenses incurred for the benefit of the child, [C.M.], in an order entitled Order Modifying Final Decree of Divorce dated September 24, 1999 incorporated Final Arbitration Decision and Award approved by this Court on September 21, 2012, that . . . states in relevant part as follows:
. . . 'Therefore, it is ORDERED BY THE COURT that the Final Arbitration Decision and Award by Shelly A. Merchant, dated May 2, 2012, copy attached as Exhibit 'A' and incorporated herein, becomes the Order of the Court and is given the full force of an Order of the Court, Modifying the Final Decree of Divorce dated September 24, 1999, and IT IS FURTHER ORDERED THAT:
3. [MOTHER] shall continue to cover the health insurance on the child and each party shall pay 50% of the uninsured medical.'
7. CONTEMPT FINDINGS AND FINDINGS ON ARREARAGES
Cash Medical Support
The Court finds that the parties STIPULATED that [FATHER] did not pay the sum of $21, 647.71 being reimbursement to [MOTHER] for health insurance premiums, plus interest of $7, 702.49 as of September 9, 2016, as set out in Exhibit 'C' . . . attached hereto and incorporated herein by reference . . . and
THEREFORE based on the stipulation of the parties, the Court accepted such stipulation as evidence in this case and entered the following ruling:
The Court affirms and ORDERS that [FATHER] is in contempt on all violations plead for by [MOTHER], save and except for violations 78 through 100, which the Court DENIES are violations per the underlying order.
The Court finds that [FATHER] has failed and refused to pay cash medical support as ordered to [MOTHER] directly . . . in ...

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