How is child support enforced in Texas?

The Texas Child Support Division has a number of enforcement options it may use to encourage parents to make their court ordered child support payments.

Raising children can be an expensive, albeit rewarding, undertaking for parents in Grapevine, and throughout Texas. In order to ensure that both parents bear the financial responsibility of providing for their children, family law judges frequently order child support payments for divorcing, separating or unmarried parents. Most of the time, people comply with these orders and make their monthly payments. In other cases, however, parents may fall behind on their payments. Regardless of the reason why a parent owes back support, Texas' Child Support Division may employ a number of enforcement options.

Wage withholding and income intercepts

Sometimes, when parents fall behind on their payments, or do not pay at all, the court may issue withholding orders. These types of orders require noncustodial parents' employers to deduct a specified amount from their paychecks. In some cases, the court may instruct an employer to withhold more than a noncustodial parent's monthly payment amount in order to help pay down past due support.

In addition to wage withholding, the Child Support Division may also intercept other forms of income. This includes lottery winnings and other funds that parents may be receiving from federal or state sources. When parents are behind on their child support, it is possible for the Child Support Division to take all, or part of, their federal income tax refunds to apply toward their arrears.

Liens against property

Another method that the Child Support Division may use to enforce child support payments is liens. The division may place liens against property owned by the noncustodial parent, including real estate, vehicles and other assets. While there are no funds obtained by placing liens, it may serve to encourage parents to resolve their child support issues. Typically, these liens remain in place until the matter has been addressed, which prevents people from selling, transferring or doing other things with those properties.

License suspensions

Parents who fall behind on their child support payments may also have their driving privileges suspended. With few exceptions, these suspensions remain in place until they have paid their back support, or have worked out another arrangement with the court. According to the Texas Attorney General's website, the Child Support Division may also suspend noncustodial parents' professional and recreational licenses.

Legal action

Custodial parents who are owed child support may choose to file a motion for enforcement with the court. Under Texas state law, these motions must include the amount that the noncustodial parents were ordered to pay, the amounts that they have paid and the amounts of their arrears. In response to this, the court may enter a judgment for the past due amount. Since child support orders are legally binding court orders, judges may find parents who have not paid, or who are behind, in contempt of court. Consequently, they may be sentenced to jail.

Working with an attorney

When noncustodial parents in Texas do not make their child support payments, it may affect the ability of the custodial parents to provide for their children, and ensure their needs are met. Therefore, those who have not been receiving the payments their children are due, or who cannot afford to make their payments, may consider seeking legal guidance. An attorney may explain their options, as well as help them to determine the best course of action given their circumstances.