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Child Support: What You Need to Know and How to Enforce It

In Texas, parents have a general responsibility to provide financial support to their children. Following a divorce or separation, the parent who lacks primary physical possession of the kid(s) may be required to pay child support. Any support that is due must be paid in a timely manner. The recipient parent has options available to enforce child support obligations. Within this article, our Houston child support attorney provides a comprehensive overview of the key things to know about the child support laws—including how to enforce them—in Texas.

An Overview of the Texas Child Support Guidelines

Child support is a payment made by one parent to another following a divorce or separation. The Texas Office of Attorney General offers a child support calculator that, while neither official nor perfect, can be used by more parents to get a general understanding of how our state’s child support guidelines will apply to their case. Parental income is a key factor that is used to determine how much child support is owed in Texas. However, the state cautions that the calculator does not work for every case and that deviations from the child support guidelines are possible when warranted.

Note: In some cases, parents may be required to pay additional child support that called for by the guidelines to cover the unique health or educational needs of their kid(s).

Parents Have an Obligation to Make Timely Child Support Payments

If a non-custodial parent is subject to a child support agreement or child support order in Texas, he or she has a legal obligation to make full payments in a timely manner. The delay of or failure to make proper child support payments can result in legal action—including enforcement by state authorities. Timely child support ensures that children receive the financial support necessary for their well-being and development. A parent in Southeast Texas who has not received the full child support that they are owed should be proactive.

Understanding Your Options for Enforcing Child Support in Texas

There are a number of different options available to enforce delinquent child support. If you are owed past due child support, an experienced Houston family law attorney can help you evaluate every potential option to get the money that is owed to you to provide for your child. Here is an overview of some of your main options for enforcing overdue child support in Texas:

  • Informal Reminder: An informal reminder is a gentle approach where one parent may directly communicate with the other to remind them of the overdue child support payments. It is a method that is often the first step and can be conducted via phone, email, or face-to-face conversation—with an aim to resolve the issue amicably
  • Formal Demand: A formal demand involves sending a written notice to the delinquent parent. It is a document that is typically drafted by an attorney. A demand letter document clearly states the amount of child support due and the consequences of non-payment. Formal demands often set a specific deadline for payment. It is an escalation beyond an informal reminder and it creates documentation of a parent’s attempt to remedy the issue.
  • Wage Garnishment: Wage garnishment is a legal procedure where a court orders the employer of the non-paying parent to directly withhold a portion of their earnings for child support. It is a method that helps to ensure regular and uninterrupted support payments—as it bypasses the need for voluntary compliance. In Texas, wage garnishment continues until the entire back-owed child support is paid off.
  • Asset Seizure: If wage garnishment is not possible or not effective, an asset seizure—either a bank levy or a seizure of real property—may be the best option. Asset seizure is an enforcement action where authorities can seize the assets of a parent who fails to pay child support. This can include bank accounts, vehicles, or other valuable property. Seized assets can then be sold and the proceeds are used to cover the past-due child support.
  • Tax Refund Intercept: Once a child support order is being enforced by the State of Texas, a federal tax refund that is due to the obligor parent can be intercepted to cover past due child support responsibilities. It is an effective means of recovering large amounts of owed child support, especially during the tax season. To be clear, the parent who owes child support does not have to consent to a tax refund intercept. State and federal authorities can take action.
  • Contempt of Court: A finding of contempt of court is the most severe form of enforcement for past-due child support. Broadly speaking, contempt is a legal process involving filing a motion in court, leading to a hearing where the delinquent parent must explain their non-payment. If the court finds willful non-compliance, it can impose penalties including fines, attorney fees, the suspension of a professional license, and even jail time. As a general rule, this child support enforcement method is reserved for extreme cases where all other options have been exhausted and have not been effective in getting results.

A one-size-fits-all approach is not good enough for child support enforcement cases in Texas. Some parents are dealing with a co-parent who has fallen slightly behind on their obligations. They may be genuinely struggling to pay. Other parents are dealing with a co-parent who is flagrantly violating their obligations despite having the financial resources to pay. No matter your situation, a Houston child support attorney can help you determine the best option to enforce the obligations.

Contact Our Houston Child Support Lawyer Today

At Thornton Esquire Law Group, PLLC, our Houston child support attorney is a skilled and reliable advocate for clients. We are ready to fight for parents—including in enforcing child support. Call us at (888) 378-1784 or connect with us online for a completely confidential initial consultation. With a law office in Houston, we represent parents in child support matters all across Southeast Texas, including Harris County, Fort Bend County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, and Montgomery County.

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