What Do You Do in the State of Texas if the Father Is Not Paying Child Support?
By Heather Frances J.D.
Your divorce decree likely outlines the judge’s order for your ex-spouse to pay child support. While this order is usually clearly spelled out, some fathers fail to pay child support, so Texas law provides several ways to encourage -- and even force -- a parent to honor this legal obligation. These options include getting assistance from the Child Support Division of the Texas Attorney General's Office.
Child support orders issued by Texas courts, whether or not they are part of divorce decrees, contain provisions for withholding payments from the paying spouse’s income. These income-withholding orders require the paying spouse’s employer to take the child support amount directly from his paycheck. If both parents agree, they can waive the withholding provision in the support order until such time as the paying spouse may fail to make timely payments. Regardless of whether the spouse’s employer withholds income for child support, the paying spouse is still responsible to pay the entire amount of child support on time as ordered.
If your ex-spouse fails to pay child support on time, interest accrues on all missed payments. But even if your ex-spouse is not fulfilling his obligations under the court's child support order, you must fulfill yours. You cannot withhold visitation rights just because he has not paid child support. Courts view child support and visitation as two separate issues -- child support is not payment in exchange for visitation privileges.
The Texas Attorney General’s Office has a Child Support Enforcement Division charged with enforcing child support orders that operates out of field offices throughout Texas. The attorneys in this division can help you collect past due child support or otherwise enforce your support order, though they cannot represent you personally. Their goal is simply to see that the judge’s order is enforced. To receive services from the Attorney General, you can contact the field office that covers your area – online, by phone or in person -- and complete an application for services. If you receive state assistance, you automatically receive support collection services without having to apply.
Parents who use the collection services of the Texas Attorney General cannot select which enforcement actions are to be taken in their cases. The Child Support Enforcement Division may pursue penalties such as filing liens against your ex-spouse’s property or other assets, suspending his driver’s license or professional licenses and intercepting his tax returns. They can also file a lawsuit against your ex-spouse. The judge may find him in contempt of court for non-compliance with the support order, which can result in jail time.
As the custodial parent, you can also file a motion with the court to enforce the child support order without assistance from the state. If you file on your own, the court can impose the same penalties against your ex-spouse as those available to the Child Support Enforcement Division.
Heather Frances has been writing professionally since 2005. Her work has been published in law reviews, local newspapers and online. Frances holds a Bachelor of Arts in social studies education from the University of Wyoming and a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School.