If you are a non-custodial parent of a minor child, you are likely under a court order to pay child support for your child. That order was likely part of a divorce proceeding or the result of a petition to establish paternity of the minor child. Whether you have been paying child support for a short period of time or for many years, you may reach a point at which you fall behind on your child support payments, leaving you to wonder what you should do. The absolute worst thing you can do if you fall behind on your payments is to do nothing. Instead, consulting with an experienced Texas child support lawyer to discuss any legal options you may have to remedy your situation is in your best interest.
Child support often gets mixed up with other issues relating to the minor child. Sometimes, for example, a non-custodial parent stops paying support because the custodial parent won’t allow him/her to spend time with the child. Conversely, a non-custodial parent may also stop paying support because he/she reunites with the custodial parent and doesn’t see the point in paying support when the family is living together once again. If you are the non-custodial parent, however, it is imperative to understand that your child support is a court ordered obligation. Consequently, only a court can modify or terminate your child support payments. It does not matter if you think you have a legitimate reason to stop paying, nor does it matter if the other parent has agreed to accept less or even forego payment altogether. Only a judge can modify or terminate your child support obligation. Therefore, if you fall behind on your scheduled payments, you need to address the issue right away.
Child support was once handled between the parents, meaning that the court only became involved if one of the parties asked the court to intervene. Today, however, it is standard practice for child support payments to go through the court system so that an official record is created showing that the payments have been made. This also means that the court system already knows when an account is in arrears, even if the payee doesn’t bring it to the court’s attention. If you fall far enough behind, legal action will be instigated with or without the payee’s cooperation. In addition, if your child is receiving any type of assistance, such as TANF, Medicaid, or SNAP benefits, the State has a vested interest in making sure you are paying your child support as ordered. If legal action is taken against you for failure to pay your child support, the Child Support Enforcement Office has several options available to try and enforce the court ordered child support, including:
requiring employers to deduct court-ordered child support from the non-custodial parent’s paycheck through wage withholding;
intercepting federal income tax refund checks, lottery winnings, or other money that may be due from state or federal sources;
filing liens against his or her property or other assets;
suspending driver’s, professional, and hunting and fishing licenses
asking a judge to sentence the non-custodial parent to jail time
If you fall behind with your child support payments, and you do not realistically believe you can get caught back up in the very near future, consulting with an experienced child support attorney is your best option. How can you afford an attorney if you cannot afford your child support payments? This is a common question under the circumstances. In the long run, it is frequently less expensive to retain an attorney to help you than it is to suffer the consequences of failing to pay your support. If you have a valid reason for failing behind, such as the loss of a job (through no fault of your own), a medical emergency, or the birth of a new child, your attorney may be able to modify the current support order so you pay less. Your attorney may also be able to negotiate an agreement that allows you to catch back up slowly while avoiding any of the above-mentioned enforcement actions. Remember, the worst thing you can do is to do nothing.
If you have additional questions or concerns about child support in the State of Texas, contact an experienced Texas child support lawyer at The Law Office of Jon R. Boyd to schedule your appointment today.