How is child support enforced in the state of Texas?

When parents in Texas fall behind or neglect to pay child support, the state has a number of options available for enforcing their financial obligations.

When parents in Fort Bend County, and throughout the state, divorce, separate or otherwise decide to raise their children apart, the court may order child support payments. Most people comply with these court-ordered financial obligations toward their children. For any number of reasons, however, some parents may fall behind on their payments or decide not to make them. In such situations, the state has a number of options for enforcing child support orders.

Wage withholding

Often, the first step the Texas Attorney General's office takes toward enforcing child support orders is to issue a wage withholding order to the paying parent's employer. This requires the employer to deduct a certain amount from the parent's paychecks. The withheld amount is then applied to the parent's child support obligation.

License suspensions

Failure to pay child support in Texas may also result in parents having their state professional and recreational licenses suspended. According to the Texas Attorney General, this is the case for those who are not in compliance with their child support payment schedule and who owe at least three months of back support. This applies to their driver's licenses, as well as to their law, dental, medical, hunting and fishing licenses.

Income intercepts

Intercepting certain types of income is another option the state has for enforcing child support orders. Through this, the attorney general's office may collect all or a portion of parents' income from federal and state sources. This includes lottery winnings and federal tax refund checks.

Liens

When parents are in arrears on their child support obligations, the state may also file liens against their assets. Through this type of action, a parent may be unable to sell or transfer the property that has the lien. Liens may be placed on homes, motor vehicles, recreational vehicles and other assets.

Court enforcement

Some parents may file lawsuits asking the court to enforce their child support orders. In such cases, the court may issue an order requiring a parent to pay what they owe. Since child support is often court-ordered, parents who neglect to make their payments may be found in contempt. This may lead to jail time, fines or both.

There are certain defenses to failure to pay child support that may be considered by the court in these cases. Under Texas state law, these include the following:

• The parent did not have the ability to make the payments

• The parent tried but was unable to borrow the funds he or she needed

• The parent did not have any property he or she could sell or leverage to raise the funds

Additionally, the court may make an allowance for parents who did not know of any legal options to borrow or otherwise obtain the funds they needed in order to make their support payments.

Seeking legal guidance

Failure to pay child support may have lasting consequences for parents in Texas, and elsewhere. This may affect the ability of parents who are owed support to provide and care for their children. The parents who are supposed to be making payments may face a range of legal implications. Therefore, parents who are owed child support or those who are struggling to make their payments may benefit from consulting with an attorney. A lawyer may explain their options for pursuing enforcement or obtaining a support modification.