Family Law Cases in Texas: Punishments for the failure to pay child support

In child support enforcement cases your back is against the wall if the record from the Attorney General’s Office shows that you have not paid your support obligation in full and on time. In some ways, it is very black and white.

Did you pay on time and in full? Great, you have yourself a valid defense. Did you not pay your child support obligation on time, in full and in the manner specified in your prior order? In this case, you had better line up a defense or two to talk to the judge about. We went over those defenses yesterday and if you have not already done so I would recommend that you go back and read about those defenses to see if any are applicable to your situation.

Supposing that those defenses were not effective and you now find yourself facing punishment from a judge for failing to abide by your court orders on child support, just what could you potentially be facing? What remedies are available to your child’s other parent as far as mechanisms to address your support deficiencies? Today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will get into this subject in some detail.

Remedies that a petitioner can seek in a child support enforcement case

The Petition in a child support enforcement case is the party who initiated the lawsuit- the one who filed the petition. You are the respondent in this case- the party that responds to the lawsuit filed with an answer and possible defenses to the alleged violations contained in the petition for enforcement.

If you are unsuccessful in offering a defense to the allegations made against you then there are a range of remedies that the petitioner can seek to address the arrearages in child support payments.

Income Withholding

Income withholding is a straightforward remedy that is typically instituted at the time of your previous family law case- whether that was a divorce or Suit Affecting the Parent Child Relationship. Income sufficient to pay your child support obligation as well as any arrearage will be withheld from your paycheck.

There will be a specific money judgment that is assessed against you by the judge in your case and a payment plan of sorts will be worked out. An additional sum of money will likely be placed on your monthly child support obligation until any arrearage is paid in full.

The goal is to have you pay back the child support arrearage in less than ten years. Some people are self-employed or otherwise not able to have a wage withholding order filed to withhold future income. In those instances, you would be ordered to make payments over and above your future child support obligation to the other parent in order to begin to make up for the arrearage.

Placing a child support lien on your property

A less commonly used method to retrieve any arrearages in child support would be to have a lien placed on any real property or even personal property that you own.

The child support lien would be the equivalent of the amount of support that you currently owe. This includes interest that accrues during the time that the payments were lacking or not made at all.

Suspending licenses

A separate petition can be filed by your child’s other parent (or by the Attorney General’s office) to suspend your license if you have fallen more than three months behind on your child support payment schedule. The petition must be filed and notice given to you that such a remedy is being sought.

You have the right to respond to this petition and at that point, a hearing would be scheduled to consider this option. If the other parent is successful in suspending your license then an order will be drafted by the opposing party and approved by the judge with his or her signature included. That order would then be sent out to whatever body or agency issues the license that has been suspended.

Your driver’s license is the most logical to be suspended as a result of your failure to timely and fully pay child support. However, if you hold a pharmacist’s license, engineering license, license to practice medicine or a law license those too are options to go after for the failure to abide by a court order related to paying child support.

Criminal contempt (jail time and fines)

A remedy available to petitioners in extreme circumstances would be to request that you be held in criminal contempt for your failure to abide by the court’s order regarding child support. This means that you could be held in jail for up to 180 days per violation (all jail time associated with multiple violations to be served concurrently) or you can be fined up to $500 per violation.

Civil contempt findings involve jail time for an indefinite amount of time until you are able to pay the arrearages in child support. For example, if you have a child support arrearage of $5,000 you can be ordered to serve jail time for up to 180 days on a criminal contempt finding and then face a day to day civil sentence until you pay the $5,000 in full. If nothing about a child support enforcement case got your attention until now, I would venture to say that jail time most likely did.

Community Supervision

More likely than having to actually serve jail time in connection with the failure to abide by court orders regarding child support is being sentenced to serve a period of time in jail with that sentence suspended so long as you meet certain requirements in regard to beginning to pay your child support arrearage.

In Harris County, a judge can send you to the Domestic Relations Office immediately after your enforcement hearing to have you register with a community supervision program in order to have an officer check in with you and your progress in toeing the line as far as child support is concerned. If this sounds like something someone would do who is on probation, then you would be correct.

This past year I was, unfortunately, part of a case where a gentleman had not paid child support for more than ten years. Not parts of ten years, or parts of payments for five years. He had not made one single payment to his ex-wife in support of his children. His ex-wife contacted the Attorney General to initiate an enforcement case on the nearly $200,000 that he owed in child support.

This gentleman hired our office shortly before his hearing. He attempted to have us offer defenses that involved his ex-wife relinquishing custody of his children to him for stretches of time. He also attempted to have us make procedural arguments that the child support order was not valid because it came from a territory of the United States (Puerto Rico).

Long story short- his defenses only absolved him of about $20,000 in back child support. He was sentenced to jail time which was suspended to allow him to begin to pay back the arrearage little by little. A period of community supervision can only last ten years so he would have to pay nearly $18,000 in arrearages over the next ten years to meet that requirement.

Enforcement of Visitation and Property Orders- Tomorrow’s blog topic

We will continue our discussion on enforcement cases by delving into visitation and property related lawsuits tomorrow. If you have any questions about the subject matter you read today please contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan.

Our licensed family law attorneys stand ready to meet with you in a free of charge consultation. We can answer your questions and help you plan a course of action for your particular situation.

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Other Articles you may be interested in:

  1. Family Law Enforcement Hearings: Agreements to Settle and Trial
  2. Reviewing your case history is crucial to success in an enforcement case
  3. Texas Family Law Court: Enforcement Actions
  4. How much will your child support enforcement case cost?
  5. The Steps of an Enforcement Case in Texas family law court
  6. Preparing for an Enforcement case in Texas
  7. Defending against an Enforcement Action in Texas
  8. Enforcement Suits in Texas Family Law, Part Five
  9. Enforcement Suits in Texas Family Law, Part Four
  10. Enforcement Suits in Texas Family Law, Part Three
  11. Enforcement Suits in Texas Family Law, Part Two
  12. Enforcement Suits in Texas Family Law: An Overview
  13. Child Support Enforcement Defense - Act Sooner Rather than Later
  14. Can my Texas Driver's License Be Suspended for Not paying Child Support?

Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Houston, Texas Enforcement Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding order enforcement, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX EnforcementLawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our enforcement lawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan handles enforcement cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.

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