How can child support be ordered and enforced?

Child support can be ordered after parentage has been established and enforced when the ordered payments are not made on time.

After a divorce or a non-traditional separation in Texas, the custodial parent may have a hard time getting financial provisions from the other parent to help pay for the child's everyday living expenses. In these challenging circumstances, the child support may be enforced by a state or legal representative or by the custodial parent representing himself or herself, or through a private attorney.

Establish parentage

Before any child care orders can be made, the parentage of the child must be established. If the biological parents were married when the child was born, this step might be skipped, if the husband is in fact the father, which is legally presumed but often not true. However, either of the parents can challenge the paternity of a child. Parents can choose to perform genetic testing to identify who the true parents are (or are NOT) when there is any form of doubt, which in fact is quite often.

Determine support

The amount of child support required by the noncustodial parent can vary from one family to the next. The person's job and salary play a role in how much money is expected from them. The amount of child funding paid can even change over the course of the same child's life. For example, either parent can request a review of the amount every three years. On the other hand, if the noncustodial parent is in school and has little money, a judge may decide to review the case again once that person has graduated and joined the workforce.

Enforce payments

Once it has been determined who the parents are and how much the noncustodial parent should pay, there are a few ways the payments can be enforced. One of the most common enforcement methods is withholding money straight from a paycheck, but the Child Support Division may also use one of the following methods:

  • Report debts to credit bureaus.
  • Put liens on personal property, such as houses and vehicles.
  • Deny passport applications.
  • Withhold tax refunds.
  • Suspend licenses, such as hunting, fishing and driving.
  • Seize payments from the federal government, such as lottery winnings and income tax refunds.

These enforcement methods can be taken if the parent falls behind on his or her payments or is refusing to pay.

Some unique cases include geographical barriers that might make it challenging to either send or receive child support payments. However, where a parent lives does not dictate whether or not he or she must make payments. So long as an order has been made, the noncustodial parent is legally obligated to pay as directed. If the noncustodial parent lives in a different state, courts in the two states should work together to ensure proper child provisions are made.

In Texas, noncustodial parents may be required to make payments to help pay for their children's food, education, clothing and other living expenses. If, for whatever reason, child support is needed, but not being received, it might be helpful to talk with a knowledgeable attorney who specializes in child custody litigation, such as an attorney Board-Certified as an expert in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization (TBLS).