A child support order enables a child to receive the financial support they need to thrive. To that end, most states take child support delinquency (when the payor falls behind or refuses to pay for child support) seriously.
Understanding how Texas officials enforce child support orders can help support payors and recipients alike navigate their cases and ensure their child remains supported.
What Happens If I Fall Behind on Child Support in Texas?
The Texas Office of the Attorney General is responsible for enforcing child support orders and penalizing child support delinquency. However, the Office of the Attorney General does not enforce visitation orders.
The Office of the Attorney General (AG's Office) can take the following actions against delinquent child support payors:
- Place a lien on the delinquent's property. A lien gives the AG's Office the right to seize property, such as a bank account, retirement plan, insurance settlement, or other assets if a parent refuses to comply with their child support order.
- Report the delinquent to credit bureaus. The AG can report a delinquent parent to credit bureaus, harming their credit score and making it more difficult for them to complete certain activities such as finding housing, receiving a new credit card, etc.
- Suspend the delinquent's license. The delinquent parent may have their license suspended by the AG's office, preventing them from driving until they repay missed support.
- Deny the delinquent's passport. The AG's office doesn't want the delinquent parent to travel out of the country while refusing to pay for child support, so they can deny a delinquent's passport.
- Intercept a delinquent's lottery winnings. If the delinquent wins the lottery, the AG's office can intercept those winnings and use them to repay the missed child support.
- File a civil or criminal contempt case against the payor. Under extreme circumstances where the payor refuses to pay for child support even after being made aware of their delinquency, the AG's office may file a case against them. To address a civil contempt case, the delinquent payor must pay a fine for each missed payment. To address a criminal case, the delinquent payor may need to serve a jail sentence in addition to repaying any missed child support.
I'm Falling Behind on Child Support—What Can I Do?
If you're falling behind on child support, you should contact the Child Support Division as soon as possible and inform them of your situation. They can help you get caught up on support, either by working with you to help you manage your budget, or by taking an alternative route like putting you on a payment plan to recoup missed support.
If you experience a substantial change in circumstances (losing your job, a medical emergency, etc.), you can file a modification case. If you take your modification case to court and prove that a substantial change in circumstances makes it impossible for you to comply with an existing support order, the court will modify your support order to make it reflect your circumstances more accurately.
Whether you're a child support recipient seeking repayment or a payor interested in filing a modification case, our lawyers are here to help.
Contact us online or via phone at (713) 903-8112 to schedule a consultation with our team.