Texas Child Support Enforcement Lawyers
It can feel like a long road to reach the end of a divorce or child custody case in which the judge ordered child support; however, this is only the beginning of a new journey to receive child support payments until the last child turns eighteen. Often non-custodial parents owing child support either intentionally evade paying child support or unintentionally fall behind. Either way, the child loses financial support from that parent and the custodial parent has to pick up the slack. Under the Texas Family Code there are several tools available to enforce a child support order and recover unpaid child support. Texas child support lawyers can help you pursue enforcing your order and recovering unpaid child support.
What is a child support enforcement under the Texas Family Code?
Under Chapter 157 of the Texas Family Code, the custodial parent who receives child support has the right to ask the court to hold the non-custodial parent in contempt for non-payment of child support in accordance with the order. In a child support enforcement case you ask the court to confirm the unpaid child support arrearage and ask for remedies to collect the arrearage or penalize the non-custodial parent until the arrearage is paid. These remedies include:
- Orders to seize assets to sell to satisfy the arrearage;
- Property liens;
- Obtaining a new income withholding order that withholds current and past due child support from wages;
- An order for attorney’s fees and costs involved in the enforcement;
- A QDRO securing payment from certain retirement accounts;
- Suspending state-issued licenses until the non-custodial parent catches up on the obligation;
- Putting the non-custodial parent in jail until the arrearage is paid.
Although a parent owed child support could file an enforcement on his or her own, most parents hire a child support enforcement attorney. Family law attorneys who represent clients in child support enforcement are familiar with the remedies available, the procedures and defenses. Enforcement cases are far more technical than many divorces and child custody cases, so hiring an experienced attorney is vital to receiving a good result.
Why hire a Texas child support enforcement lawyer?
Figuring out the right combination of remedies to request is not always easy. Non-custodial parents often hide assets and have many dishonest excuses why they cannot pay child support. A child support enforcement attorney who understands the available remedies can assess the situation and determine the right combination.
Should I pursue a child support enforcement in Texas?
Generally you should pursue a child support enforcement as soon as child support begins to go unpaid. A non-custodial parent refusing to pay child support can develop the idea that nothing will happen if child support goes unpaid. Then he or she will make no effort to pay into the future. The greater the arrearage the harder it will be to collect. It is typically better to train the obligor to uphold his or her obligations.
Sometimes all it takes to resolve a small arrearage is to work out an arrangement with the non-custodial parent. People change jobs or lose jobs; unless a new withholding order is issued it is very easy for the obligor to miss some payments. The parent may not know that payments must go directly to the State Disbursement Unit to maintain support.
Not every missed child support payment is an intentional act to avoid a child support obligation. However, if more than a couple months have gone by it is probably not a situation resolved without at least hiring a child support enforcement attorney to help get the non-custodial parent to get caught up.
Large amounts of unpaid child support in Texas
If you already have a large arrearage of thousands of dollars then you likely need to file an enforcement. (And file sooner rather than later.) I know some people have the idea that pursuing unpaid child support somehow excuses the absence of a deadbeat parent. Payment of a court ordered support obligation has no bearing on whether a person is a bad parent. The obligor can pay all the child support ordered and still be a terrible parent.
I can understand the pride in raising a child by yourself without the help of a bad parent. It is great if you can afford to support yourself and your children by yourself. However, that child support could be set aside into a great head start into adulthood for your children.
Remedies for small amounts of unpaid child support in Texas
A child support enforcement action can be effective at creating a meaningful solution to a child support arrearage even if the unpaid child support is only a month or two of support payments. There are defenses available to obligors in child support enforcement proceedings and judges have a certain amount of leeway in the remedies ordered but most judges are very stern in enforcing child support orders and ordering whatever remedies are necessary.
Often it is a good idea to bring an enforcement action when the obligor drops a month or two behind on child support payments without a good reason for the lack of payment because it is easy for the obligor to develop a bad habit of not paying support and accruing a large arrearage.
Do I have to hire a child support enforcement lawyer?
A child support enforcement action can be brought in two different ways: through a public agency or a private action. A custodial parent can request an appropriate child support agency bring the enforcement on their behalf or the parent can file for enforcement through the normal family courts process like any other private litigation.
- Child support enforcement through the Attorney General of Texas
- Child support enforcement with a private family law attorney.
Each option has its benefits but most importantly you should pursue enforcement early when the non-custodial parent falls behind on payments. It is easier to get caught up on a few months than a few years of unpaid child support. Find an attorney in your area.