Thursday, February 12, 2009

Evidentiary Proof in Child Support Enforcement Actions

When filing for child support enforcement lawsuits or motions to enforce child support in Texas, the admissibility of evidence is reviewed on a "abuse of discretion" standard. Although trial courts have a lot of latitude and discretion in admitting or excluding evidentiary proof or testimony in child support enforcement actions, it is still subject to review by a higher court.

On this note, it is always helpful to have good legal representation. It takes a keen and experienced lawyer to preserve error or proof at the trial court level especially if an appeal to a higher court is anticipated.

In Texas child support enforcement proceedings or hearings, questions concerning the admission and exclusion of evidence are reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard. In re R.J.P., 179 S.W.3d 181, 184 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist. 2005, no pet.). An appellate court will reverse only if the trial court abused its discretion by acting without reference to any guiding rules or principals or by acting arbitrarily or unreasonably. Id.; Worford v. Stamper, 801 S.W.2d 108, 109 (Tex. 1990) (per curiam). A trial court abuses its discretion as to legal issues when it fails to analyze or apply the law correctly. In re D.S., 76 S.W.3d 512, 516 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2002, no pet.). A higher court may not reverse for abuse of discretion merely because it disagrees with the trial court's decision. Stallworth v. Stallworth, 201 S.W.3d 338, 347 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2006, no pet.).

Section 157.002 of the Texas Family Code dictates the requirements of a motion for enforcement of a child support order. Section 157.002(b)(1) requires a motion for enforcement to include the amount owed as provided in the support order, the amount paid, and the amount of the arrearage. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 157.002(b)(1) (Vernon 2002).

Section 157.002(b)(3) provides that the motion may include as an attachment a copy of a record of child support payments maintained by the Title IV-D registry or a local registry. Id. § 157.002(b)(3)

Section 157.162(c) provides that a “copy of the payment record attached to the motion is evidence of the facts asserted in the payment record and is admissible to show whether payments were made. The respondent may offer controverting evidence.” Id. § 157.162(c) (Vernon Supp. 2006).

When petitioning the trial court to enforce and or modify child support obligations in Texas, proper documentation and evidence is key to getting the enforcement or modification order.

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