How to Request Arrears for Child Support in Texas
By Elizabeth Rayne, J.D.
Parents in Texas have several options to ensure they receive the financial support they need to raise their children following a divorce. To enforce an existing support order, you may independently file a motion with the court for enforcement or hire a private collection agency or attorney, which will likely take a fee or percentage of the support owed. Texas also has state resources to help residents collect child support.
Motion for Enforcement
If you have a court order for child support, you may file a motion for enforcement of that order with the same court that issued the original order. In the motion, you must include information about the original child support order, list the date of each missed payment, and the total amount your ex-spouse owes you in child support. If your ex-spouse receives public benefits, you may include records of payments made through the state registry. After filing the motion, the court will schedule a hearing; you must notify your ex-spouse of the hearing date by serving him with a copy of the motion.
Hearing and Remedies
At the scheduled hearing, both parents produce evidence which the court uses to determine whether or not the parent actually missed payments and if she had a good reason for doing so. The court will consider any evidence that demonstrates the paying parent did not have the resources to pay support. If the court finds that the parent could have been paying support yet failed to do so, it may file a lien on property owned by the parent; order wage withholding; or find the parent in contempt of court and order fines or jail time. Unlike some other judgments, the court may collect child support by placing a lien on real property, bank accounts, personal property and almost any other property owned by the parent.
Texas Attorney General
The Child Support Division of the Texas Office of the Attorney General helps parents collect owed child support. The Attorney General has several tools to enforce child support orders, including wage withholding, license suspension, placing liens against property, and intercepting tax refunds and lottery winnings. Many families that receive public benefits automatically receive these services from the Attorney General; however, any Texas resident may apply for help from the Child Support Division. It may take time for the office to get to your case, as the Attorney General receives a large volume of requests. If you want to file your own motion, but do not know where to find your ex-spouse, the Attorney General can help you locate him.
Domestic Relations Offices
Larger counties in Texas have Domestic Relations Offices, which also serve to help the public enforce child support orders. You must apply for the enforcement services in your county by submitting an application. The attorneys for DRO determine which enforcement measures to use. They can suspend the parent's driver's license; attempt to collect monies by letter or telephone; intercept tax refunds; freeze bank accounts; or pursue contempt of court or even incarceration.
- Texas Family Code: Chapter 157. Enforcement
- TXAccess.org: Child Support Arrearages
- Texas Office of the Attorney General, Child Support Division: Frequently Asked Questions
- Travis County Domestic Relations Office: Child Support Enforcement
- Texas Self-Help Law Clinic: Child Support And Visitation Enforcement
Elizabeth Rayne earned her J.D. from Penn State University and has been practicing law since 2009, advising clients on issues ranging from employment law to nonprofit management. For two years, she served as a contributing editor for the "Vermont Environmental Monitor."