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
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 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
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.
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.
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
Law Office of Bryan Fagan.
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
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Family Law Enforcement Hearings: Agreements to Settle and Trial
- Reviewing your case history is crucial to success in an enforcement case
- Texas Family Law Court: Enforcement Actions
- How much will your child support enforcement case cost?
- The Steps of an Enforcement Case in Texas family law court
- Preparing for an Enforcement case in Texas
- Defending against an Enforcement Action in Texas
- Enforcement Suits in Texas Family Law, Part Five
- Enforcement Suits in Texas Family Law, Part Four
- Enforcement Suits in Texas Family Law, Part Three
- Enforcement Suits in Texas Family Law, Part Two
- Enforcement Suits in Texas Family Law: An Overview
- Child Support Enforcement Defense - Act Sooner Rather than Later
- 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.
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,
Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including
Fort Bend County and