The Missing Child Support Check
A child support order signed by a judge is no guarantee that the money will start flowing in to help take care of the children. All too often, the non-custodial parent ignores orders for child support, leaving the custodial parent footing the whole bill. Texas offers its residents a comprehensive child support program, which is designed to help parents obtain and enforce court orders for child support. The Child Support Program does more than just enforce child support orders; it also helps to locate missing parents, establish paternity, collect and disburse the child support payments and obtain modification of child support orders when it’s necessary.
Temporary vs Permanent
While a judge may grant you a court order for child support as soon as you file for divorce, the order is only a temporary one. If your soon-to-be ex-spouse doesn’t pay, you or your attorney can appear before a judge and ask to have your spouse held in contempt, jailed or even have property seized to pay the past-due support.
When the judge finalizes the divorce, he will also issue a permanent order for child support, and this is the point where you can start relying on the state to help you get the money that is owed. As soon as your divorce is final, register the permanent child support order with the Texas Child Support Division of the Office of the Attorney General. If your ex does not pay the child support on time, the department will be ready to take action. This program does come at a cost of $25 per year for each year it collects $500 or more in child support payments for you.
Enforcing Child Support Orders
The Texas Child Support Program uses a variety of means to collect unpaid child support. The most common is an automatic deduction from the non-paying parent’s paycheck. The department can also take lottery winnings, income tax refund checks or any other money that is owed by the state. When all else fails, the program may file liens against or seize assets and property, suspend professional or driver licenses or file a lawsuit to enforce the child support order. Once this gets to court, the judge may choose to enter a judgment against the parent for non-payment, or he can even send the parent to jail until all or a portion of the past-due amount is paid.
Keep a file with all relevant papers in it so that you’re ready if and when you need to take advantage of the program. At minimum, you should have contact information about your ex-spouse, including his address, social security number and date of birth. You should also have your divorce decree and child support order in the file, along with the children’s birth certificates, any paternity papers, a record of child support that has been paid and paperwork reflecting income for both parents, such as bank statements and pay stubs. Always appear in court when there are proceedings scheduled, and notify the Attorney General’s office of any address or phone changes.
Trying to take care of the children when money is tight is a difficult situation, but you must stay focused on the task at hand—getting your ex to pay the money owed. Do not try to take any retaliation such as not allowing visitation or preventing your ex from taking belongings out of the house. Do everything by the book and you’ll avoid a lot of stress in the end.