Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg
appeal from the 444th District Court of Cameron County,
Chief Justice Contreras and Justices Hinojosa and Tijerina
CONTRERAS CHIEF JUSTICE
Christine Troiani, pro se, challenges the trial court's
order in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship.
Following Christine's divorce from appellee Anthony
Troiani, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) filed suit
to modify child support and confirm child support arrearages.
By three issues, Christine argues the trial court abused its
discretion by: (1) denying the relief requested by the OAG in
its suit; (2) holding that Anthony overpaid his child support
obligations, granting him a credit against his future
obligations, and reducing his monthly amount due; and (3)
"failing to allow her to rebut" Anthony's
testimony. We affirm in part, reverse and render in part, and
reverse and remand in part.
3, 2013, the trial court rendered a divorce decree providing
in part that Christine and Anthony shall each be joint
managing conservators of the parties' two children, who
were born in 2000 and 2004. Under the terms of the decree,
Anthony was to pay child support to Christine in the amount
of $1, 875 per month, beginning on February 1, 2012 and
ending when one of the children reaches eighteen years of
age, marries, or dies. The monthly amount due would then be
reduced to $1, 500 until the other child reaches eighteen
years of age, marries, or dies. The decree further noted that
the children were then enrolled in Christine's
employer-provided health insurance plan, and so it ordered
Anthony to pay Christine $135 per month for insurance
premiums as medical support beginning April 1, 2012.
2014, Christine filed a petition for modification and motion
for enforcement, asking the trial court to (1) increase
Anthony's child support payments to include their
son's private school tuition and fees, and (2) award her
all proceeds from the sale of certain community real
property. The trial court rendered an order granting
Christine's requests on August 1, 2014, and Anthony
appealed. We affirmed in part and reversed and rendered in
part. Troiani v. Troiani, No. 13-14-00630-CV, 2016
WL 4702685, at *3- 5 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi-Edinburg Sept.
8, 2016, no pet.) (mem. op.) (concluding that, "[a]bsent
any evidence of the child's proven needs, the trial court
abused its discretion in ordering Anthony to pay private
school tuition," but that "the trial court did not
impermissibly alter or change the division of property"
by requiring Anthony to pay Christine the net proceeds from
the sale of the community property).
12, 2016, the OAG filed the instant suit alleging that, as of
June 20, 2016, Anthony was $4, 095.03 in arrears on his child
support obligation and $1, 337.98 in arrears on his medical
support obligation, based on the amounts due under the
divorce decree.The petition asked for modification of
child support due to a material and substantial change in
circumstances. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §
156.401(a)(1). The petition also alleged that Christine's
health insurance premiums for the children had increased to
$277 per month in March 2015, and it asked the court to enter
judgment against Anthony for the additional costs incurred by
Christine on health insurance premiums since that time, as
well as for fifty percent of unreimbursed medical expenses
which she had allegedly incurred. In response, Anthony filed
a "Counterpetition to Recover Child Support Payments
Made in Excess of Child Support Order" which argued
that, as of the time of our judgment in the 2016 appeal, he
had already paid $8, 845.60 in child support- including
tuition payments-and that he was therefore not in
arrears. Christine and the OAG each filed responses
to Anthony's counterpetition.
later filed three amended petitions, each revising the
alleged arrearage amount. Its live pleading, a third amended
petition filed on February 16, 2018, stated that as of that
date, Anthony in fact overpaid his child support obligation
by $1, 794.98 and did not owe any medical support arrearage.
The third amended petition retained the OAG's original
request that Anthony be ordered to pay Christine the
increased health insurance costs and fifty percent of
unreimbursed medical expenses. It stated that, if the court
offsets the amounts due for unreimbursed medical expenses by
the overpayment of child support, the remaining balance owed
by Anthony would be $3, 490.15.
February 20, 2018, Anthony filed a "First Amended Motion
For Enforcement By Contempt and Order to Appear and
Modification" in which he alleged that there were
twenty-three instances between 2015 and 2017 when Christine
failed to comply with the visitation provisions of the final
decree. He asked for Christine to be held in contempt,
jailed, and fined. On the same day, Anthony filed a
"First Amended Petition to Recover Child Support
Payments Made In Excess of Child Support Order Or in the
Alternative, Offset" in which he reiterated the
arguments made in his earlier counterpetition and
additionally argued that he had made over $8, 000 in direct
tuition payments which should be credited as child support.
first amended petition also alleged the parties had entered
into an "Accord and Satisfaction" agreement on
October 12, 2012 and that, at the time of the agreement, the
OAG indicated that he was $1, 710 in arrears in child
support. He therefore contended that, by signing the
agreement, Christine waived her entitlement to that amount. A
copy of the agreement was attached to his petition.
hearing was held on March 21, 2018, at which the OAG and both
parties were each represented by counsel. The trial court
later signed an order on April 21, 2018, granting
Anthony's requested modification, granting the OAG's
request for modification in part, and denying the OAG's
request for an order as to unreimbursed medical expenses. The
order denied the OAG's motion, made at the hearing, to
amend its pleadings to request an increase in child support
going forward. It further stated that Anthony was not in
child support or medical support arrears as of the date of
the order, and it contained the following additional
The Court finds that [Anthony] has overpaid his child support
obligation as of March 21, 2018 as follows:  by payment of
private school tuition for his son . . . in the amount of $8,
820.60, and  The Court finds that [Anthony] and
[Christine] entered into an accord and satisfaction whereby
any child support arrearage that existed at the time would be
zeroed out. The Court finds at the time the parties entered
in the accord and satisfaction, [Anthony] was in child
support arrears in the amount of $3, 760.00 as of October 12,
2012. THEREFORE, the Court ORDERS that [Anthony] receive a
total credit against his future child support obligations in
the amount of $14, 950.40 as of March 21, 2018.
The Court finds that guideline child support for [Anthony] is
$1, 923.75 per month; however, the Court ORDERS a monthly
offset of his current child support obligation in the amount
of $311.46 each month until the $14, 950.40 credit has
applied to his future child support obligations. This
calculation results in 48 months of a $311.46 reduction in
monthly child support.
accordance with these findings, the trial court ordered
Anthony to pay the following amounts in monthly child
support: $1, 612.29 beginning on April 1, 2018, and ending
when either child turns eighteen, marries, or dies; $1,
184.79 thereafter until March 2022; and $1, 496.25 from April
1, 2022, until the other child turns eighteen, marries, or
dies. The April 21 order also required Anthony to pay
Christine $277 in monthly medical expenses as additional
child support, for as long as his child support obligation
14, 2018, the trial court signed findings of fact and
conclusions of law addressing only Anthony's contempt
allegations. The court found, among other things, that
Christine had failed to surrender the parties' minor
daughter to Anthony for specified possession periods, in
violation of the terms of the divorce decree, on twenty-two
occasions between 2015 and 2017. Christine was found to be in
contempt of court and was ordered to serve 180 days in jail
for each violation, with the terms of confinement to run
concurrently, and the confinement suspended on condition that
Christine comply with the order and pay $5, 000 to Anthony in
attorney's fees. The trial court also ordered that
Anthony would have two additional periods of possession of up
to fourteen days in 2018 and 2019. Christine filed a motion
for new trial, which was denied.
Standard of Review
court's ruling on a motion for enforcement or
modification of child support is reviewed for an abuse of
discretion. Chenault v. Banks, 296 S.W.3d 186, 189
(Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2009, no pet.); see In re
A.M.W., 313 S.W.3d 887, 890 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2010, no
pet.). A court abuses its discretion when it acts without
reference to any guiding rules or principles, or fails to
analyze or apply the law correctly. Worford v.
Stamper, 801 S.W.2d 108, 109 (Tex. 1990) (per curiam).
Under the abuse of discretion standard, legal and factual
sufficiency of the evidence are not independent grounds for
asserting error; however, they are relevant factors in
assessing whether an abuse of discretion occurred. Banker
v. Banker, 517 S.W.3d 863, 869 (Tex. App.- Corpus
Christi-Edinburg 2017, pet. denied).
Relief Requested in OAG's Petition
multifarious first issue, Christine argues that the trial
court abused its discretion by failing to grant the relief
requested in the OAG's third amended petition for
modification of child support and confirmation of arrearages.
She also complains by this issue about the trial court's
denial of unreimbursed medical expenses and its calculation
of health insurance premiums.
Modification of Current Child Support Obligation
initially argues by her first issue that the trial court
erred by: "holding that the OAG had not pled a
modification of child support above the guidelines due to the
proven need[s] of the children"; denying modification of
child support; and excluding evidence related to child
support, medical support, and the needs of the children.
beginning of the hearing on the OAG's enforcement motion,
the OAG's attorney moved to strike an amended answer
which Anthony had filed after the pleading deadline set by
the court. According to the OAG's counsel, Anthony's
late-filed amended answer asserted certain new affirmative
defenses to the OAG's claims. The following colloquy
THE COURT: Okay. All right. The Court agrees with you then,
[OAG's counsel], and the answer is stricken. By the same
token, however, [counsel], your pleadings don't request
enhanced support and so the Court is not going to entertain
evidence in that regard either. All right.
[OAG's counsel]: I except to that ruling, Your Honor.
Again, I would show, for purposes of the record, that that
has been an issue in this case since day one. There is no
surprise. I'm requesting the Court to grant us leave to
file trial amendment for that purpose.
THE COURT: Denied.
trial court's April 21, 2018 order states: "IT IS
ORDERED that the AG's request for trial amendment to
allow for additional support in accordance with the proven
needs of the children is DENIED."
response to Christine's issue on appeal, Anthony argues
that the OAG's live petition "does not state that
she is requesting child support over the statutory
or in accordance with the proven needs of the children, if
any, nor do they seek enforcement." He contends that
"[t]he OAG's ...