Enforcement of Child Support in Texas: What to Expect
Learn what to expect when you are faced with the enforcement of child support.
Children need the support of their parents. More importantly, children thrive when they are emotionally and financially supported by their parents. It makes them feel wanted, cherished, and cared for. It can boost their self-esteem and affects their quality of life.
An enforcement of child support is the way a parent or the government office (OAG) can secure financial support. When a parent does make child support payments, the child does not have what he or she needs. The other parent may not be able to provide financially for the child. Although, financial support is the responsibility of both parents, only one parent is the receiving parent. In some Agreed Order, both parents decide that neither of them will pay child support. This is one of the benefits of mediation – the parties can agree on how the child’s financial and physical needs will be met. Additionally, a parent can modify an order.
How the Office of the Attorney General Enforces the Order
If a Court orders you to pay child support, make your payments through the State Disbursement Unit. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) take different actions to enforce court order when a parent fails to pay child support. Some of these actions are passport denial, property liens, credit report, lottery intercept, and license suspension.
The OAG is the state agency responsible for collecting, establishing, and enforcing child support orders. This is done on behalf of the state of Texas. The OAG does not represent either of the parents.
What to Expect
If you have a hearing coming up, be prepared. Have your documents with you – evidence of payments. Know your assets, including financial accounts. At this point, it is important to at least talk to an attorney about legal strategies and your options. At our firm, we provide options for parents including unbundled legal services. That means you can ask questions during consultation, and there is no obligation to retain the attorney. Also, you can choose to fully retain an attorney at our firm to assist you and appear in court to represent you.
When the OAG is a party to the action (that means you received a letter from the agency about your failure to pay child support), you must show up for the hearing. Most people take a ‘do-nothing’ approach. If you fail to appear, the court may issue a capias (a warrant for your arrest).
When you show up to the hearing, prior to or when you approach the judge, the OAG will ask if you have means to pay your back child support.
If you honestly have no means of paying (no job, no money in your account, no property to sell, no family member to borrow money from), let the OAG attorney know. The chance of having no means to pay is extremely small. In some cases, a parent is placed in jail because they willingly refuse to pay the debt. Yes, back child support is a debt. This is more common with fathers. Please know that you cannot remove back child support in a bankruptcy proceeding.
Why? Because most parents (in OAG system) have MEDICAID or rely on the state for welfare assistance. Enforcement of child support is the agency’s way of paying back the state for these services. Therefore, be ready for questions about what assets you have that can pay for the debts. Also, you may be able to negotiate a payment plan with the OAG. The goal is to repay what you owe the state and the other parent.
In addition, the paying parent who pays the other parent directly must go to court and file for enforcement of child support. The court proceeding is different (more formal).
What to take with you to your enforcement proceeding
We recommend you take copies of the documents you received from court. This includes citation, notice of hearing, and petition. Anything that the court or OAG sends to you is important. Also, take with you:
- 2 copies of two or three most recent paystubs
- 2 copies of two or three most recent tax returns
- a copy of other form of income, including wages and tips
- Notices of liens
- your notice/letter of unemployment
- any proof of payment that you gave the child directly or the receiving parent.
When you make payments directly to the SDU, informal parents (#6) may be a credit to the paying parent.
If you have been served with an order to appear in court for contempt or enforcement of child support, talk to an attorney. It may feel scary, especially when your freedom is at stake. The most important step is to APPEAR. Do not place it lightly on your lamp stand and walk away. Take it seriously and be there.
Call one of our staff, (832) 529-1255, and let us know how we can help you. We are ready to answer your questions.