Justice WAINWRIGHT delivered the opinion of the Court.
Under the Texas Family Code, may a trial court calculate child support based on earning potential, rather than actual earnings, when the obligor is intentionally unemployed or underemployed, but there is no proof that the obligor's unemployment or underemployment is for the purpose of avoiding child support? Because the language of Texas Family Code section 154.066 does not require such proof, we hold that intent to avoid child support need not be proven for the trial court to apply the child support guidelines to earning potential instead of actual earnings. However, a trial court may properly consider an obligor's intent to avoid child support as a factor, along with other relevant facts, in an intentional unemployment or underemployment analysis. We affirm the judgment of the trial court and the court of appeals.
I. Factual and Procedural Background
Jerilyn Trije Iliff and James Derwood Iliff married April 7, 1990 and had three children. During their marriage James was the primary earner, working in the chemical industry as a chemical specialist and account manager. Although there was some dispute during the divorce proceedings over the amount of his salary, Jerilyn testified James usually made $90,000 to $100,000 a year, and James's W-2 for the year prior to the divorce showed earnings of $102,000. James quit his job in January 2006. After leaving his employment in the chemical industry, James had no steady gainful employment during the divorce proceedings. Despite the fact that James has Bachelor of Science and Master of Business Administration degrees and admits that he is not disabled and is fit to work, James's only work since quitting his job consisted of operating a tractor and sporadic business management consulting for an estimated total earnings of $3,600 to $4,800 over a two-year period.
Jerilyn filed for divorce on June 28, 2006 in Hays County, six months after James resigned. The trial court entered the final divorce decree on May 5, 2008. The trial court appointed Jerilyn sole managing conservator of the children. James was appointed possessory conservator and was ordered to pay child support. Because the trial court determined that James was intentionally unemployed or underemployed, the trial court exercised its discretion and applied the child support guidelines to James's earning potential, as opposed to his actual earnings. See TEX. FAM.CODE § 154.066 (allowing the trial court to set child support based on earning potential where an obligor is intentionally underemployed). The trial court's findings of fact and conclusions of law state:
Determining that James's monthly gross earning potential was no less than $5,000, the trial court calculated James's net resources to be $3,662.09 a month and ordered James to pay $1,295.19 per month in child support for his three minor children.
At the court of appeals, James argued that the trial court abused its discretion by awarding child support in excess of the statutory guidelines because there was no evidence that James was intentionally unemployed or underemployed for the purpose of avoiding child support. Iliff v. Iliff, 339 S.W.3d 126 (Tex.App.-Austin 2009, pet. granted). The court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion, rejecting James's argument that the trial court was required to find that his unemployment or underemployment was for "the primary purpose of avoiding child support." Id. While acknowledging that other Texas courts of appeals impose a requirement that intentional unemployment or underemployment be for the primary purpose of avoiding child support, the court reasoned that the language of section 154.066 does not require a court to consider avoidance of child support. Id. (citing Hollifield v. Hollifield, 925 S.W.2d 153, 156 (Tex.App.-Austin 1996, no writ)). We granted Jerilyn's petition to resolve the split among the courts of appeals. Compare Hollifield, 925 S.W.2d at 156 ("Section 154.066 does not require the court to consider whether the obligor's `voluntary unemployment' was for the primary
II. Standard of Review
A trial court has discretion to set child support within the parameters provided by the Texas Family Code. Rodriguez v. Rodriguez, 860 S.W.2d 414, 415 (Tex.1993); see also TEX. FAM.CODE §§ 154.121-.123. "A court's order of child support will not be disturbed on appeal unless the complaining party can show a clear abuse of discretion." Worford v. Stamper, 801 S.W.2d 108, 109 (Tex.1990) (per curiam) (citation omitted); see also Rodriguez, 860 S.W.2d at 415. A trial court abuses its discretion when it acts arbitrarily or unreasonably, without reference to guiding rules or principles. Worford, 801 S.W.2d at 109; Downer v. Aquamarine Operators, Inc., 701 S.W.2d 238, 241-42 (Tex.1985). A trial court also abuses its discretion by failing to analyze or apply the law correctly. Walker v. Packer, 827 S.W.2d 833, 840 (Tex.1992).
III. Law and Analysis
Texas Family Code section 154.066 provides that "[i]f 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." TEX. FAM. CODE § 154.066. The question this case presents is: In order to set child support based upon earning potential of the obligor under section 154.066, must the trial court determine that the obligor's unemployment or underemployment is for the purpose of reducing child support?
A. Disagreement Among the Courts of Appeals
Twelve of the fourteen Texas courts of appeals have answered this question in the affirmative, interpreting Texas Family Code section 154.066 to require proof that the obligor is intentionally unemployed or underemployed for the purpose of avoiding child support. See, e.g., DuBois, 956 S.W.2d at 610. Prior to the Tyler Court of Appeals holding in DuBois, there was no uniform interpretation of "intentional unemployment or underemployment." Compare Baucom v. Crews, 819 S.W.2d 628, 633 (Tex.App.-Waco 1991, no writ) (setting child support based on earning potential simply because the obligor "voluntarily became underemployed by choosing to resign from the employment he had"), with Woodall v. Woodall, 837 S.W.2d 856, 858 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 1992, no writ) (requiring evidence that the obligor's "income reduction was designed to obtain a decrease in his child support obligation"). After 1997, the vast majority of the Texas courts of appeals adopted the DuBois rule and began to consistently recite its "intent to avoid child support" standard.
To interpret "intentional unemployment or underemployment," we first turn to the text of the statute.
B. Statutory Construction
In construing a statute, the court's purpose is to give effect to the Legislature's expressed intent. "Our role. . . is not to second-guess the policy choices that inform our statutes or to weigh the effectiveness of their results; rather, our task is to interpret those statutes in a manner that effectuates the Legislature's intent." McIntyre v. Ramirez, 109 S.W.3d 741, 748 (Tex.2003). Where statutory language is unambiguous and only yields one reasonable interpretation, "we will interpret the statute according to its plain meaning." Id.; see also City of Rockwall v. Hughes, 246 S.W.3d 621, 625-26 (Tex.2008) ("[W]e construe the statute's words according to their plain and common meaning unless a contrary intention is apparent from the context or unless such a construction leads to absurd results." (internal citations omitted)).
Section 154.066 gives a trial court discretion to set child support based on the obligor's earning capacity where
There must be a finding that the obligor is intentionally unemployed or underemployed, meaning an obligor consciously chooses to remain unemployed or underemployed. But there is nothing in the statute requiring further proof of the motive or purpose behind the unemployment or underemployment.
C. Application of Texas Family Code Section 154.066
The trial court has the discretion to apply the support guidelines to the earning potential of an obligor if it determines an obligor is intentionally unemployed or underemployed.
Although a trial court properly considers whether an obligor parent is unemployed or underemployed for the purpose of avoiding child support, the inquiry under section 154.066 should not be so narrowly circumscribed. While the trial court may consider whether the obligor is attempting to avoid child support by becoming or remaining unemployed or underemployed as a factor in its child support determination, such proof is not required for a court to be able to set child support based on earning potential. However, in certain cases, such evidence may be especially relevant or even dispositive of the matter.
The law has long recognized parents have a legal duty to support their children during their minority. In re Henry, 154 S.W.3d 594, 596 (Tex.2005) (per curiam); Ex Parte Hall, 854 S.W.2d 656, 658 (Tex.1993); Eggemeyer v. Eggemeyer, 554 S.W.2d 137, 138 (Tex.1977); see also Yarborough v. Yarborough, 290 U.S. 202, 221, 54 S.Ct. 181, 78 L.Ed. 269 (1933) ("[I]n order that children may not become public charges the duty of maintenance is one imposed primarily upon the parents, according to the needs of the child and their ability to meet those needs."). A parent who is qualified to obtain gainful employment cannot evade his or her child support obligation by voluntarily remaining unemployed or underemployed. See Eggemeyer v. Eggemeyer, 535 S.W.2d 425, 427-28 (Tex.Civ.App.-Austin 1976), aff'd, 554 S.W.2d 137 (Tex.1977). Concurrently,
Trial courts should be cautious of setting child support based on earning potential in every case where an obligor makes less money than he or she has in the past. James argues that application of section 154.066 will lead to absurd consequences by preventing parents from ever selecting a job which provides a lower income. However, the Legislature addressed this concern, in part, by limiting the application of the statute only to situations where the obligor makes "significantly less" money because of intentional unemployment or underemployment. TEX. FAM.CODE § 154.066. We are wary of the proposition presented by the Attorney General that, other things being equal, receiving more child support will always be in the best interest of the child. Although some financial resources are indispensable to raising and providing for a child, the financial analysis will often not be the end of the court's consideration.
D. Application of Section 154.066 to the Trial Court's Child Support Determination
During the Iliffs' divorce trial, the court heard testimony that James voluntarily quit a job making $102,000 a year. After leaving his job, James moved in with his mother who testified that James did not help out with any household expenses or the upkeep of the house but instead spent most of his time reading and watching television. James's sister testified that James was not incapacitated or incompetent, he had no gainful employment since 2006, and he was usually watching television when she visited him. Despite having a B.S., an M.B.A., and almost twenty years' experience in the chemical industry, the only employment James had over the two-year period during his divorce included operation of a tractor and some consulting work for an estimated $200 a month. Although Jerilyn testified to possible alcohol abuse and psychological issues, James refused to comply with the recommended treatment after a court ordered neurological evaluation and further refused to undergo a court ordered psychological evaluation. James admitted to being able to work, however there was little evidence that James had actively sought other comparable employment after his tractor business foundered. On this record, the trial court issued a finding that James was intentionally underemployed and set James's child support payments based on an earning potential of $5,000 a month, or $60,000 a year, $42,000 less than James's salary from the job he voluntarily left. See Montgomery Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Davis, 34 S.W.3d 559, 567 (Tex.2000) (noting that the trial court, as fact finder, "is the sole judge of the witnesses' credibility and the weight to be given their testimony, and is free to resolve any inconsistencies" (citation omitted)). Applying the standard elucidated above, we hold the trial court did not abuse its discretion in its child support determination.
Texas Family Code section 154.066 contains no requirement of proof that an obligor be intentionally unemployed or underemployed for the purposes of avoiding child support. Where a trial court determines that an obligor is intentionally unemployed or underemployed, it is in the court's discretion to set child support based on earning potential. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in setting James's child support based on his earning potential. We affirm the judgment of the court of appeals and disapprove of courts of appeals opinions to the extent they require proof of intent to avoid child support.