Child Support Enforcement in Texas
It is the public policy of the State of Texas that both parents of a child should play an active and involved role in their upbringing. While parents may get divorced or separate permanently, a court will ensure that the parent with whom the children do not live with on a day-to-day basis gets an opportunity to spend as much time as is possible with the children.
The other part of this arrangement is that this parent (known as a non-custodial parent) is also typically obligated to pay child support towards the upbringing of the child when he or she is not in their care. This child support is calculated:
- as a percentage of a person’s take-home pay.
- based on how many children he or she has.
The more children a person must care for, the higher the percentage of their income that is taken for child support purposes. What happens when a person, for lack of income or any other reason, fails to timely and fully pay their child support obligation, and what can the other parent do to make sure that this is brought to a court’s attention?
Child Support Enforcement Lawsuit
If a parent who is owed child support begins to take note of the fact that the support payments are not coming regularly or contain only a fraction of the normal amounts of support that they ordinarily would, there is a problem to be dealt with.
As the DFW/Plano attorneys with Carpenter & Associates will tell clients and potential clients, it’s not as simple, however, as letting a police officer know that your former spouse has failed to pay his or her child support as ordered by a Court and to have that officer penalize the other parent in some way.
The parent to whom the money is owed must actively seek remedies from their Court in the form of an Enforcement suit.
What is a Motion for Enforcement?
A Motion for Enforcement of a prior order is a fairly straightforward document in terms of what it is asking for, but there are intricacies to consider in drafting the document. Essentially, this petition:
- informs the court of any violations of its order
- specifies the date(s) of said violations and
- brings to the Court’s attention any other information that may be important for it to be aware of.
What goes into a Motion for Enforcement?
Using our topic, missed child support payments, as an example, the requesting parent would need to draft a Petition that includes:
- the monthly amount of child support owed to them
- the dates that the payments were missed and
- a total amount that the other party is in arrearage to them
The enforcement petition must also reference or quote (preferably both) that section of the Court’s prior order that the other parent is in violation of.
Failure to do these things properly can be grounds to have the request denied by a court, so attention to detail is critical.
What Remedies are available through a Motion for Enforcement?
The remedy or relief that a person can request for failed child support payments varies. A court can and should order a party to pay any amounts owed in child support to the other parent.
The court may take into consideration how much the owing spouse earns on a monthly basis and base a payment plan on the person’s monthly income.
It is important to keep in mind that the child support arrearage has an interest rate of six percent attached to it, so a court must determine what monthly amount will allow the parent to pay the money back on top of what interest accumulates on top of that sum.
Other remedies that a court has available to order are:
- Liens – placing liens on the property and assets of the owing parent.
- License suspension – the loss of professional and recreational licenses until the child support is paid back. This ranges from a person’s Class C driver’s license to a license to operate a truck or other piece of machinery.
- Jail Time – in some instances, depending on the amount owed, the frequency of payments being received already, and the reasons provided by the owing party for having failed to make payments in the past, jail time is an allowable punishment from a court.
If the party requesting the support to be paid is requesting jail time, it must be limited to no more than 180 days of time (six months).
If you’re wondering how frequently a judge would order this kind of punishment, the author of this article can say that they’ve seen parents who have owed large amounts of child support ordered to go straight to jail or to register for deferred adjudication immediately after a hearing on the subject.
If the payment plan set forth by the Court is not followed by a person on probation, then jail time is sure to follow.