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Important aspects of infrequently discussed issues in child support enforcement suits

Our state provides attorneys with the ability to collect child support on behalf of their clients that is due and owing. The thought is that parents who do not support their children financially are violating the public policy objectives of our state and that attorneys should be given sufficient tools to seek payment and punishment for a parent who owes child support.

An interesting aspect of collecting past-due child support is that the law allows retirement accounts owned by an owing ex-spouse to be tapped for paying back child support. A domestic relations order will enable Texas to tap that portion of the retirement fund in the name of the parent who owes child support and pays the owed amount to you, the parent who is owed the child support.

Most any sort of retirement plan can be tapped for these purposes, whether it is a pension plan or a 401(k) plan. Keep in mind that if your ex-spouse has a retirement plan that he cannot begin to draw from until a specific date, a domestic relations order cannot fast-forward that requirement. The order would not go into effect until that date is reached, regardless of when a judge signed the order.

Domestic Relations Orders are nifty tools to utilize at the initial order level when your spouse does not work or earn any other income. It can be an adequate substitute for a wage withholding order. Courts in Texas have even allowed parents to get lump sums of child support from large retirement accounts that their ex-spouse owns. Your domestic relations order must be drawn up and submitted to the plan administrator for the retirement plan and must then be approved.

A key point to understand is that your child will be named the payee under a domestic relations order for child support instead of you. It is most sensible to have these payments still flow through the Office of the Attorney General, so a record of payment is kept so that your ex-spouse receives the proper credit for having paid support. If you are reading this and have not yet completed your divorce, talk to your attorney and see if this is a feasible and worthwhile effort for you to make.

Domestic Relations Order for arrearages in child support

To get into a position where a domestic relations order can help recoup past-due child support amounts, you must first win an order from a judge that spells out the sum of money that is due and owing to you.

Once this is in place, you need to contact the plan administrator for the retirement plan that you seek to tap for payment of the past-due support. Most programs have pre-ordained language that needs to be included in order. It is advisable to contact the plan administrator well in advance to include this language in your domestic relations order.

A word to the wise in this situation (especially if you are attempting to go about this process on your own) would not be to guess the language that needs to be included in the order. Go to the plan administrator and ask what your ranking should say if you have a strange situation on your hands.

What about child support liens?

A child support lien may be assessed against your ex-spouse if not paying his child support as ordered. This sort of lien arises automatically upon the first time that a payment is missed. In enforcement, you can seek multiple judgments, possibly, if there are numerous missed payments. The fact of the matter is that each child support payment that your ex-spouse does not make to you in a judgment. The property that a lien can be attached to is pretty widespread, other than their homestead.

A lien is effective until your ex-spouse pays all current and past-due support, including interest, costs, and even attorney's fees. Your attorney can, at your request, take the lien and file it with the county clerk for your county so that if your ex-spouse were to try to sell anything or use the property as security for a loan, that lien would show up to any potential buyers or creditors that he would like to become involved with.

Not surprisingly, a child support lien can attach to retirement accounts, life insurance funds, or personal injury settlements. This includes financial institutions like banks or credit unions that may house funds held on behalf of your ex-spouse. If the account is in your ex-spouse's name outright or if your ex-spouse has a mere interest in the history, the lien can attach to it.

How you can work with the attorney general to recover child support or medical support owed to you

You can utilize the attorney general by asking them to file enforcement against your ex-spouse. You can hire a private attorney to do so for you, but you must notify the attorney general of your attempt. Suppose your child is on government assistance like food stamps or Medicaid. In that case, the government automatically has the right to recover any amounts of medical support that are due on your behalf.

If you are a party to a Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR) from years ago and now you have hired a private attorney to help you with enforcement, the OAG is a party to the case. It must be notified, as I alluded to a moment ago. This frequently happens if you applied for help from the OAG when you were younger and did have the resources to do so independently. Your attorney will need to look up court records to see if the OAG has ever been a party to your case before. It doesn't hurt to notify the OAG and have them tell you whether or not they need to be involved.

Remember that the OAG does not represent you or your ex-spouse in child support enforcement. They represent the State of Texas and the state's interests in ensuring that child support is collected timely and thoroughly. Child support and medical support are two different things and must be stated as such in your enforcement proceeding.

If you need to seek advanced methods for enforcement when it comes to the payment, you should consider attempting to get the OAG involved. Your attorney will not be able to access your ex-spouse's federal tax refunds for price and cannot do things like suspending his passport until payments are made. While your attorney can seek contempt findings and have child support liens attached to his property, these super-enforcement methods are additional tools that you may want to utilize in your situation.

Takeaways regarding child support and medical support enforcement

You are best served by hiring an attorney to proceed to attempt enforcement of child support payments that your ex-spouse has not made. The methods I have described above are complex and require an experienced hand. While you should be educated on the subject, no amount of education can substitute for experience.

Questions on child support enforcement issues? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, offer the sort of steady, experienced advocacy that is essential to achieving success in your child support enforcement case. Our attorneys represent clients across southeast Texas and would be honored to do the same for you and your family.

To have your questions answered, please contact us today. We offer free of charge consultations with a licensed family law attorney.


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Other Articles you may be interested in:

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  3. Texas Family Law Court: Enforcement Actions
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  6. Preparing for an Enforcement case in Texas
  7. Defending against an Enforcement Action in Texas
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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Enforcement Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding order enforcement, it's essential 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 the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, 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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