Establishing Child Support and Enforcing the Order
When parents divorce and have children, the court will determine and order monthly child support. Child support is also ordered when the parties are not married but paternity is established. Child support is usually set by state statute based on the net resource income of the parent ordered to pay support. The customary practice once child support is determined is to prepare a child support withholding order which is sent to the employer of the child support payer so that the child support money is withheld for distribution to the parent receiving the child support on behalf of the child.
Please listen to our Wichita Falls Family Law Podcast episode: Child Support Calculations in Texas. Attorney Richard T. Sutherland continues building a library of podcast interview content to help parents understand Texas divorce and family law issues including child support.
Enforcing a child support order is necessary when the parent responsible for paying, stops making payments. There could be several reasons child support is not being paid. The child support payor might have lost their job or there was a change in employment that caused the withholding process to fail.
Why Would a Parent Stop Paying Child Support?
There are many reasons a parent would stop paying child support. They may think they are above the law. They might believe that the other parent has enough money and does not need support. They might also believe that their personal needs are more important than complying with the court’s order to pay child support.
In high-net-worth divorces the income of the party ordered to pay might exceed the maximum guideline amount of child support to be ordered. To learn more, read our article about High-Net-Worth Divorce.
The parent with significant resources who may not need regular employment cannot simply refuse to work and use their voluntary unemployment as an excuse not to pay their child support obligation.
Parents Not Paying Child Support Say They Are Not Working
When a parent responsible for paying child support loses their job there is no paycheck from which to deduct child support payments. Too often there are people who either elect not to get a new job, or they hide where they are working from the other parent and their attorney who may be trying to enforce the child support order. There are also situations where a parent responsible for paying child support is working for cash that is not reported or withheld from pay.
Refusing to work is not a justifiable excuse to not pay child support. Where the parent can work and is not otherwise physically or mentally impaired, they must seek work to pay support.
Enforcing Child Support in Court
The court ordering the payment of child support retains jurisdiction to summon the non-paying parent to answer as to why they should not be held in contempt of court. There could be a simple reason that support was not being paid, such as an issue with the wage withholding order.
State of Texas Enforcing Child Support
Another way to enforce a child support order is to rely on the State of Texas Attorney General to enforce the support order through it’s Child Support Division (CSD). The CSD uses state resources to collect child support. The state has a long list of options it can use to collect unpaid support, including working with other states is the parent ordered to pay has moved outside of Texas.
Contempt Proceedings for Enforcing Child Support
A contempt proceeding can be initiated, seeking to find the child support obligor in contempt of court for failure to pay child support as ordered. Any other failures to comply with court orders can be including in the contempt proceeding.
The party failing to pay child support can be summoned to appear in court and address the judge, explaining why they are not in compliance with the child support order and why they are not making payments. Judges have discretion in penalizing a parent for failure to pay support and for refusal to comply with the court’s order.
The Court Can Put a Parent in Jail for Not Paying Child Support
If the court finds a parent in contempt of court for failure to pay child support, the judge has several options:
- Order the party in contempt to be jailed in the county jail for up to six months for every violation of the court’s orders;
- Order the party in contempt to pay a fine up to $500 for each violation of the court’s orders;
- Order the party in contempt to pay the other party’s attorney’s fees and court costs; or
- Place the party in contempt on community supervision and require them to comply with all the terms of a community supervision order.
There are additional remedies to recover unpaid child support including placing liens on personal property and real estate and foreclosing on the lien. The parent seeking unpaid support can also obtain a money judgment and wage withholding order to be sent to an employer.
In Texas, child support amounts more than 3 months past due can trigger a driver license suspension by the State of Texas. Professional licenses may also be suspended, as well as fishing and hunting licenses when child support is not paid.
About Richard T. Sutherland, Attorney at Law for Enforcing Child Support in Texas
Richard T. Sutherland is an experienced divorce and family law attorney in Wichita Falls, Texas with over 40 years of experience. Mr. Sutherland negotiates and litigates divorce, custody and child support matters. Call the Law Office of Richard T. Sutherland if you need help enforcing child support in Texas. Contact the firm online or call (940) 691-2100 to schedule a consultation and learn your rights and options.