The Duty to Pay Child Support
A parent’s legal duty to provide financial support for their child is expressly recognized by Texas law. Under Texas Family Code § 151.001, “a parent of a child has…the duty to support the child, including providing the child with clothing, food, shelter, medical and dental care, and education…” As a result of this section and others in Chapter 154 of the Texas Family Code, Texas courts calculate child support obligations to address a child’s needs, ostensibly for the necessaries of life, including medical care and school.
The importance of child support in Texas can be gleaned from comparing specific provisions of the Family Code against public policy.
For example, a spousal maintenance order automatically terminates when either party to the payment obligation dies. Conversely, the duty to pay child support will not cease upon the parent’s death. The parent’s estate is liable to pay the full amount of future child support.
As you can see, the state of Texas is heavily invested in securing the wellbeing of its child residents.
Legal Authority to Suspend Licenses
The Texas Family Code explicitly authorizes courts to suspend a person’s license as a means of compelling them to honor their child support obligations.
Under Section 232.003, a court or child support enforcement agency may suspend the licenses of someone who:
Owes three months’ worth of overdue child support under a valid support order;
Was given an opportunity to get current on their payments under a repayment schedule; and
Failed to comply with the repayment schedule.
What Kind of Licenses Are Subject to Suspension?
Texas statutory law broadly defines license with regard to what the court’s suspension authority for enforcing the payment of child support.
Under Family Code § 232.001, the license is defined to mean, “a license, certificate, registration, permit, or other authorization that:
Is issued by a licensing authority;
Is subject before expiration to renewal, suspension, revocation, forfeiture, or termination by a licensing authority; and
A person must obtain to:
Practice or engage in a particular business, occupation, or profession;
Operate a motor vehicle on a public highway in this state; or
Engage in any other regulated activity, including hunting, fishing, or other recreational activity for which a license is required
The court can also deny the initial issuance of a license or prevent the renewal of an expiring license from compelling compliance with a child support order. The court may suspend almost any kind of license as a way to induce someone to take care of the child support obligations.
The following are examples of licenses that may be suspended to enforce payment of child support:
Firearms carry licenses
Liquor sales license
Athletic trainer’s license
Real estate license
Given a person’s livelihood is often regulated through a licensing authority, the court’s power to suspend these licenses is a powerful method for ensuring that a parent prioritizes the wellbeing of their child over their own livelihood.
The court can condition suspension of a parent’s license on their promise to adhere to the terms of a new repayment schedule and stay the order’s effect while a parent complies with the repayment schedule. However, if the parent still fails to comply with the new schedule, a court can lift its stay of the suspension order.
Responding to a Licenses Suspension Order
Certain procedures must be performed before the court can suspend a person’s licenses. Because the suspension of licenses can substantially restrict a person’s ability to engage in activities that are essential to their livelihood, the law affords notice and a hearing to a parent subject to the suspension order.
At their hearing, a parent can raise certain defenses against the imposition of a license suspension order, including:
The support amount exceeds their legal duty: When a support obligation involves an amount that is more than necessary to address a child’s needs, a parent is not required to pay more than what their legal duty requires.
The support order is unclear or unspecific: A parent can argue that the terms of the support order or repayment plan were not specific enough to allow the parent to understand precisely how to comply with the order or repayment plan.
Inability to pay: A parent who lacked sufficient financial resources or property from which they could satisfy their support obligations can use their inability to pay as a defense against enforcement of the order.
Hardship: If compliance with the repayment schedule would cause the parent to suffer unreasonable hardship, they can extend their payment deadline and get a new repayment schedule.
Consult Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers for Legal Counsel
As you can see, child support obligations are extremely important to the State of Texas. The issues that arise from child support enforcement proceedings have the potential to significantly impact your life. Therefore, you should consult an experienced attorney from Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers if you are facing legal repercussions in connection with a child support obligation.
For more information about how our legal team can help you, contact us online or call us (940) 293-2313 today.