Lawyers see a lot of people who want to outsmart the system. That’s a natural inclination – humans like to maximize pleasure and mitigate pain – but the Texas Family Code provides a way to keep child support payers honest.
Texas Family Code 154.006 says “If the actual income of the obligor is significantly less than what the obligor could earn because of intentional unemployment or underemployment, the court may apply the support guidelines to the earning potential of the obligor.”
This section tells us that, if the person receiving child support can prove that the person paying lowered his or her income on purpose to lower child support, the court can use that payer’s income potential to determine the support amount. Child support in Texas is generally based on the income of the paying parent, with a few exceptions based on need. If a paying parent lowers his or her income, then the court will lower the support amount. However, the system will not reward a parent who intentionally makes less than he or she should, just to avoid support.
As with any legal issue that involves the state of mind of a litigant, intentional underemployment can be hard to prove. The court will mostly infer from the situation and whatever evidence you can bring of dishonesty. Showing that a paying parent is unemployed or on disability will not suffice.
An attorney can help you sort through circumstantial evidence to build a narrative of the paying parent’s deception. Although bringing evidence of need may help in certain situations, generally, if you want to receive more than standard child support, you have a burden to prove that your situation is special. Intentional underemployment by a paying parent will move a judge to order more than the standard.