When a judge signs a custody order, child support to the custodial parent, or “managing conservator,” is frequently involved. Texas courts believe that children are better off when they receive emotional as well as financial support from both parents. Therefore, the non-custodial parent or “possessory conservator” provides the differential between a one-parent household and a two-parent household so that the children have what they need.
But as many single parents will attest, the other parent believes they do not have to pay child support, and flatly refuse to do so. In other cases, a parent has lost their job and income, or had a reduction in income and is unable to pay the full amount.
About Child Support
In Texas, child support lasts until:
- The child (or children) turn 18 or graduates from high school, whichever is later
- The child becomes emancipated by:
- Getting married
- Joining the military
- Successfully petitioning the court for emancipation
In the case of a disabled child, the support may continue through the life of the child throughout adulthood.
When your child turns 18, you should check with the Child Support Division of the Texas Office Of The Attorney General to find out if and when payments will end. The paying parent is not allowed to just stop paying child support. He or she will be instructed on the process of ending child support by the agency.
The Office Of The Attorney General
Once the court orders child support, the non-custodial parent begins paying through the Texas Office Of The Attorney General. This agency handles the collection and administration of child support payments, and enforcement should the parent stop paying.
Parents should open an online account for child support so that the agency can keep track of everything including payments, disbursement, and help enforce your order for child support. It also makes the process easier for both parents.
The process for paying and receiving child support in Texas is relatively simple once the account is open and set up. Parents can pay by credit or debit card, with cash, by check or money order, with an automatic draft from a bank account, or by wage withholding. There are also multiple kiosks where parents can make child support payments.
Because there is a valid court order in place for child support, payments are required and enforced through the Attorney General’s office.
What If Child Support Stops?
The first thing you must remember is that even if child support stops, visitation must continue to take place. Otherwise, you will be in contempt of court for violating the visitation schedule. (Note that the AG cannot enforce visitation, since it is handled by the family court.)
The next thing to do is to report the failure of the other parent to pay. Child support does not “go away,” it must be paid in full.
The Attorney General’s office has a number of options for enforcing child support at its disposal, including:
- License suspension—in addition to a driver’s license, the AG works with more than 60 Texas agencies to suspend professional, fishing/hunting, and other licenses for nonpayment of child support.
- Liens—the AG can file a lien against a bank account, retirement, life insurance, lawsuit settlements, and other assets a parent may have to recover child support.
- Lottery winnings—the AG can also intercept money through the Texas Comptroller’s Office from any lottery winnings to recover child support as well as medical/dental insurance payments.
- Passports—the AG can prevent a parent from getting or renewing their passport.
- Credit Reporting—any overdue child support can be reported to the credit bureau and filed on a credit report
- Contempt Of Court And Jail Time—if found in contempt of civil court, the AG can assess a fine and a number of days behind bars, to be served even if the fine is paid. For criminal contempt, the parent is sentenced to jail until the overdue amount is paid.
The AG also has a web page for “child support evaders,” along with the amount of money they owe for their children, along with a separate page of those who have been arrested for delinquent child support.
If You Can’t Pay
Circumstances change, and it’s not unusual for one parent to find themselves unemployed, under-employed, or unable to work due to an injury or a disability. Rather than just not paying, you’ll need to act quickly to avoid the adverse actions that come with failing to pay child support.
Should you find yourself in this situation, the first thing to do is contact the Child Support Division immediately and request assistance. They can help with a support order modification and answer questions you may have regarding child support.
Tarrant County’s Family Law Attorney
Wendy L. Hart is an experienced family law attorney helping people throughout Tarrant County who are dealing with child support issues. As a divorcee, Wendy understands the difficulties involved and will work to resolve your case fairly, and will protect your interests and those of your children.