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How Texas deals with parents behind on child support

A two-day sweep in the Rio Grande Valley resulted in the arrest of more than a dozen men. Fifteen people were charged with failure to pay child support. Authorities from the Texas attorney general's office said the men owed more than $391,000 in support payments.

Most of the arrestees were from Harlingen in Cameron County. Law enforcement agents, including Cameron County sheriff's deputies, took the men into custody during the early morning hours, hoping to catch the suspects at home before work.

Bond monies received by the suspects went directly to satisfy overdue support payments to custodial parents. The men could face jail terms of up to six months.

Texas officials said unpaid support in the Rio Grande Valley is commonplace because single-parent homes are plentiful. Cameron County has about 26,000 child support cases currently, which last year brought in approximately $68 million dollars in payments during the last fiscal year.

The government is also attempting to create support opportunities for children whose paternity is unknown or legally undeclared. Child support cannot be ordered without the certainty of a child's paternity. Most of the state's support cases involve court orders for support from established noncustodial parents.

Arresting parents for child support arrears may be a last resort to extract payment. Police say most noncustodial parents who are arrested try to make amends.

Courts are willing to modify support orders for parents who cannot afford payments due to uncontrollable circumstances. Officials urge parents who have trouble staying current with child support to contact sheriff's deputies to request payment changes.

A parent who proactively seeks a support hearing before a family court judge stands a better chance of avoiding arrest and penalties than noncustodial parents who wait until the law shows up at their door to force a lump-sum payment.

Courts want to know that noncustodial parents take the financial obligations to their children seriously.

Source: BrownsvilleHerald.com, "Men arrested for failing to pay child support," Jesse Mendoza, Oct. 12, 2012

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