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Know your rights Spouse's income does not affect child support

By By Richard Alderman
April 13, 2013 at midnight
Updated April 12, 2013 at 11:13 p.m.


I pay child support for two children from a former marriage. I am about to get married for a second time. The woman makes much more money than I do. Will her income be used to recalculate the amount of my support payments?

As you know, child support payments are based on the net resources available to the person obligated to pay support. In other words, your payments are based on your income. If you marry, your wife's income will not be entered into the calculation. Your support payments can be raised only if your income increases.

I just got a call from a debt collector saying that if I did not promptly pay, he would garnish my tax refund before I received it. My wife and I have been counting on this money to pay some other expenses. We have been paying the debt collector all we can afford. Can the debt collector do this?

The debt collector cannot garnish your federal tax refund. Creditors may take tax refunds in only very limited circumstances. For example, a refund may be taken for a debt owed to the federal government, a debt owed to a state or a debt for past-due child support.

Threatening to garnish your tax refund also violates state and federal debt collection laws. Under these laws, a debt collector is prohibited from making threats to take legal action he has no right to take. I suggest you let the debt collector know that you know your legal rights and continue to pay what you can afford.

My guess is the threats will stop. If they don't, contact the Federal Trade Commission and consider speaking with a consumer attorney.

I live in an apartment where there have been several robberies. I am now really afraid to live here. My lease is not up until October. How can I get out of my lease?

Unfortunately, this a common question, and people usually do not like the answer. You probably cannot get out of the lease based simply on the fact that there have been some robberies. The risk of criminal activity is a risk that we all accept whenever we buy or rent property.

In order to terminate your lease without any liability, you will have to show that the landlord has either made misrepresentations about the property or acted improperly in a way contributed to the situation.

For example, if the landlord knew of the problems and failed to disclose the high crime rate when you moved in or misrepresented the safety of the complex, the landlord may have violated the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. If he violates this law, you may have the right to terminate the lease or recover damages.

You also may have a basis to terminate the lease if the landlord negligently failed to maintain existing security and this increased the crime rate. For example, if the security gates do not work or lighting in common areas is broken, the landlord could be considered negligent. The landlord's negligence could provide you with a basis to sue for damages or to terminate the lease.

In my opinion, the bottom line is that you need to show some fault on the part of the landlord to terminate your lease without any liability. The best approach may be to try and negotiate a release with the landlord. Maybe offer to let him keep the security deposit. Also, if he does agree to release you, be sure to get it in writing.

I signed a contract to buy a car. The dealer backed out and sold it to someone else. Luckily, the next day I found the car for the same price at another dealer. Now, I want to sue the original seller who backed out of our deal. How much can I sue for?

You can't sue for anything. The law does not punish people for breaching a contract. The measure of damages for a breach of contract is the difference between the contract price and what you ultimately paid. Because you purchased the car for the same price, you have no damages.

It may not be "fair" that he sold it to someone else, but as far as the law is concerned, his conduct did not cause you any damages. If you were forced to pay more for the car, the dealer would have been responsible for the increase in the price.

Richard Alderman, a consumer advocate popularly known as "the People's Lawyer," is a professor at the University of Houston Law School in Houston. His column appears weekly in the Victoria Advocate. Write to him at UH Law Center, Houston, Texas 77204-6391. He also maintains a Web page at peopleslawyer.net.

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