Many Options Available to Texas Parents Who Are Owed Child Support

In today’s economy, child support payments are more important than ever to the parent receiving the payments and potentially more difficult for the paying parent to deliver.

The effects of the economic downturn are being felt by both parties. The receiving parent now may find child support payments necessary to pay the bills. Further, the parent responsible for paying child support may have more difficulty making payments, either due to a decrease in his or her earnings or separation from employment.

It is important for both parties to understand their rights and obligations when it comes to child support payments. Contacting a knowledgeable family law attorney is one way to ensure those rights are protected and responsibilities are clear.

Remember, any parent receiving or paying child support should keep detailed records of amounts received, paid and owed in case legal action becomes necessary to enforce the obligation.

Child Support Under Federal Law

The Social Security Act provides that each U.S. state must establish a single organizational unit to administer the state’s plan for child support. The state agency is then responsible for providing services that relate to the establishment and modification of child support obligations. The state is also responsible for enforcing child support obligations.

Congress has provided certain protections for receiving parents when paying parents fail to pay child support. In 1998, Congress passed the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act. The Act provides that it is a felony to willfully fail to pay child support to a parent living in another state. Punishment for a first offense under the Act includes a fine, imprisonment for no more than six months, or both.

Nevertheless, the U.S. Census Bureau recently reported that the majority of parents who are owed child support do not receive the full amount they are owed. In fact, almost one-quarter do not receive any of the child support they are due.

Recovering Child Support in Texas

In Texas, the Office of the Attorney General acts as the official child support enforcement agency.

As such, the attorney general’s office can employ a number of different methods to recover unpaid child support for the family. For instance, the state can have money withheld directly from the indebted parent’s paycheck. If the paying parent is receiving any of various types of benefits, such as unemployment insurance or workers’ compensation benefits, the state can withhold from those payments.

The state also has the ability to suspend passports and different licenses, seize property owned by the paying parent, report him or her to credit bureaus and initiate criminal prosecution.

However, the Texas attorney general does not have an attorney-client relationship with either parent in a child support enforcement action – the agency represents the state in its interest in protecting the child’s welfare and, if applicable, collecting reimbursement of public benefits that may have supported the child during a time the defaulting parent was supposed to have been supporting the child.

Therefore, even if the attorney general’s office is involved, a parent either seeking to enforce child support or fighting the obligation to pay it should discuss the matter with an experienced lawyer to receive all appropriate legal advice and protection.

Possible private legal remedies for enforcing a child support obligation in Texas include:

  • Income withholding
  • Contempt of court
  • Attachment of assets
  • Lawsuit for amounts past due
  • Bond request
  • Motion to enforce child support order
  • Action to collect child support under the Uniform Interstate Support Act

A knowledgeable and skilled Texas family law attorney can advise a parent as to the options for legal action in a child support enforcement matter.