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Enforcement of Child Support Orders in a Texas Divorce

Frequently Asked Questions About Child Support - from the Texas Attorney General's Web Site.

Enforcement

What if the child's non-custodial parent lives in another state?
The law requires states to cooperate with each other. The non-custodial parent is legally required to make regular child support payments, no matter where he or she lives.

What if the non-custodial parent gets behind in child support payments or refuses to pay?
If a non-custodial parent does not pay child support, he or she is subject to enforcement measures to collect regular and past-due payments. The Child Support Division uses many techniques to enforce child support orders, including:

  • requiring employers to deduct court-ordered child support from the non-custodial parent's paycheck through wage withholding;
  • intercepting federal income tax refund checks, lottery winnings, or other money that may be due from state or federal sources;
  • filing liens against his or her property or other assets;
  • suspending driver's, professional, and hunting and fishing licenses; and
  • filing a lawsuit against the non-custodial parent asking the court to enforce its order.
A judge may sentence a nonpaying parent to jail and enter a judgment for past due child support.

License Suspension

Who is affected by the license suspension law?
Non-custodial parents who hold a state license, owe more than three months of past-due child support, and are not in compliance with an existing court-ordered or voluntary repayment schedule face license suspension.

What types of licenses are usually suspended?
Most adults have a driver's licenses. Computer matches can determine which obligors have other licenses and permits ranging from medical, dental, and law licenses to hunting and fishing licenses.

How many licensing agencies are involved?
The statute identifies 60 licensing agencies. However, this list is not exclusive. For example, "licensing authority" includes political subdivisions and any other board or agency not listed by name.

How does the process work?
The Attorney General's Child Support Division matches its caseload with computer tapes from different licensing agencies. When the match shows an obligor who meets the statutory criteria for license suspension as holding one or more of the identified licenses, the Office of the Attorney General will provide the license holder with a warning and an opportunity to resolve the outstanding delinquency.

If the obligor fails to respond, the Child Support Division will confirm the location of the obligor and other information necessary to suspend the license and then refer the case for administrative or judicial prosecution.

Custody and Visitation

Can a parent take custody of the child instead of making child support payments?
Both parents must provide for the child, no matter which parent has primary custody. Child support is normally paid to the custodial parent for the benefit of the child. Legal custody can be changed, but only if the parents go to court to modify the previous child support order and establish a child support amount for the new non-custodial parent.

Does the Office of the Attorney General handle custody and visitation disputes?
Federal regulations do not allow the Office of the Attorney General to provide services for custody or visitation disputes. The Attorney General encourages mediation of these issues, and most cases are resolved by agreement. In the rare case where custody and/or visitation are contested, the Office of the Attorney General encourages each parent to hire a private attorney.

If you cannot afford a lawyer, you may be eligible for federally funded legal assistance. Look in the phone book under "Legal Aid" or "Legal Services." Sometimes the court will appoint a lawyer for the child. Also, many law schools operate legal clinics at which law students assist people under the supervision of a law professor or other lawyer. Contact the law school nearest you for more information.

Is a non-custodial parent entitled to visit the child if he or she is not paying child support?
Child support and visitation rights are separate issues. The court will determine both and will usually order the non-custodial parent to pay child support and the custodial parent to make the child available for visits.

The custodial parent has a duty to obey the court order for visitation, even if the non-custodial parent cannot or will not pay child support. The court can enforce its orders against either parent.

Private Child Support Collection Agencies

Can any other agency handle child support enforcement cases?
In Texas, county-operated domestic relations or child support offices, private attorneys, and private collection agencies also provide some child support enforcement services.

Private agencies do charge for their services. If you use the services of a private child support collection agency, be sure that you fully understand any contract that you sign. If you receive free child support services from the Child Support Division and these services result in your collecting money from a non-custodial parent, your contract with a private agency may obligate you to pay the private agency a portion of the collected money even if that agency was not instrumental in the collection.

Can a private child support collection agency process my case faster?
The majority of the Child Support Division's incoming cases do not have established paternity or child support orders. These cases take longer to process than cases with established paternity and child support orders. Private child support collection agencies and county domestic relations offices generally handle only cases with established paternity and existing child support orders.

The Office of the Attorney General is required to provide child support services to all families applying for services and to all families receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). Moreover, the Child Support Division provides a full range of child support services. The Division's caseload is very large - much larger than that of any private collection agency. A private agency may therefore be able to process some cases more quickly. This factor must be balanced against the cost of using a private agency.

As mandated by Title IV-D of the Social Security Act of 1975 and designated by the State of Texas, the Office of the Attorney General is responsible for the establishment and enforcement of child support. The Office of the Attorney General represents the State of Texas and cannot represent individuals involved in child support suits.

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