November 18, 2005
Case Law Development: Credits Against Child Support for Disability Benefits Paid to Children on Behalf of Disabled Obligor Parent
Father was ordered to pay child support. He applied for disability and, eventually, the social security administration processed his claim and determined that he had become disabled and that he and his dependents were entitled to disability benefits. Both daughters received sizable lump sum payments (to account for the delay in processing the claim from the time the disability began to the time the service actually began to make payments).
Father argued that he was entitled to a credit or offset for the benefits paid to his children as a result of his disability. The Texas Court of Appeals agreed that section 154.132 of the Texas Family Code provides that, when establishing or modifying child support, the court should credit benefits paid to children on account of the parent's disability. However, the court rejected Father's argument for credits against past due child support. Regarding father's argument that he be given a credit against a past judgment of arrearages, the court held that the doctrine of res judicata bars any retroactive credit. As to those arrearages that had not yet been reduced to a judgment, the court also concluded that no credit should be given. The court found no language in the statutory provision allowing for a retroactive credit and concluded the issue was better left to the legislature. "The policy issues implicated in applying a lump-sum disability payment to unpaid, unconfirmed child support are more complicated than a credit for future benefits to be paid. Given the competing policies and equities, ... whether an obligor is entitled to an offset against past unconfirmed child support arrearages is an issue for the Legislature to decide."
In the Interest of G.L.S., 2005 Tex. App. LEXIS 9547 (November 16, 2005)
Opinion on the web at http://www.4thcoa.courts.state.tx.us/opinions/case.asp?FilingID=19007 (last visited November 17, 2005)