If you receive or pay child support due to a divorce, paternity case, or another type of custody case, understanding the ins and outs of your support order is important. Whether you're a recipient or a payor, understanding how child support orders are enforced in Texas can help you stay on track and ensure your child receives the resources they need to thrive.
Today, we're taking an in-depth look at child support enforcement in Texas, so you know what to expect from your support order now and in the future. At Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers, our experienced attorneys regularly help clients navigate complicated family law disputes, including child support and custody cases.
To schedule a consultation with our team and receive the legal counsel you deserve, contact us onlineor via phone at (940) 293-2313.
How Does Child Support Enforcement Work in Texas?
The Texas Office of the Attorney General (OAG) is an agency responsible for enforcing child support orders in Texas. The Texas OAG can take several actions against delinquent payors (individuals who are behind on child support payments), which we'll go over soon.
However, child support recipients don't necessarily have to go through the Texas OAG to get compensation for overdue child support payments from a delinquent payor.
If, for whatever reason, a child support recipient would prefer to avoid using the Texas OAG, they can file a child support enforcement case by themself. This process involves filing an enforcement case with the court that issued the original order. Taking this route can be advantageous because the Texas OAG is often working on several cases at once and cannot always provide the detailed attention that may be necessary for your enforcement case.
If the court finds that the payor is delinquent on their child support, they can take the following actions:
- Order the delinquent payor to pay back missed child support and attorney's fees;
- Order them to attend financial counseling;
- Direct them towards employment services (if unemployment is a defining factor in the case); and
- Find them in contempt of court and subject them to confinement in the county jail and fines for each violation.
Should I Use the Texas OAG to Pursue Support Enforcement?
Generally, Texas officials recommend that parents try and go through the Texas OAG to obtain child support enforcement instead of filing an individual case with the court. However, there are a few circumstances where a parent may want to file an individual case:
- They need faster results. The Texas OAG often has a large caseload, and the availability of the OAG has only become more restrictive with the onset of COVID-19. Filing for an individual case may be a quicker route to success.
- The delinquent payor is violating other orders. The Texas OAG cannot enforce violations on other types of orders, such as visitation. If the delinquent payor violates multiple orders, filing an individual case with a court to address the various violations at once may be the best path forward.
However, the Texas OAG can take certain support enforcement measures courts cannot, which is why Texas courts recommend going through the OAG for support disputes.
The Texas OAG can:
- Suspend a delinquent payor's license until they repay missed support;
- Void their passport;
- Place liens on their assets such as property or bank accounts to repay missed support;
- Intercept their lottery winnings; and
- Report them to a credit bureau reporting agency, hurting their credit score.
Generally, the Texas OAG prefers to take actions that help a delinquent payor catch up on missed support when possible. For example, instead of forcing a delinquent payor to pay a fine on missing support, the OAG may require the payor to put that money toward their child support obligation and instead enforce a different penalty.
I Missed a Child Support Payment—What's Next?
If you miss a child support payment, you should let your co-parent know why. You may then want to consider contacting the Texas OAG yourself to get ahead of the case, so to speak.
If you experienced a substantial change in circumstances, such as losing your job, you may be able to work with the OAG and the Texas family court system to modify your support order and make it more suitable for your current circumstances.
At the very least, working with the Texas OAG and the party receiving child support, instead of attempting to avoid them or circumvent the case, gives you a better chance of obtaining an outcome this is most beneficial to your circumstances.
At Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers, we help delinquent payors and child support recipients obtain the legal representation and justice they deserve for their children.
To schedule a consultation with our team or learn more about our child custody and support services, contact us onlineor via phone at (940) 293-2313.