Child Support and the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act

Once the father of your child signs an Acknowledgment of Paternity, he will become the legal father of your child as soon as you also sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity stating he is the father, as well. From that point forward, he will be responsible for paying your child support if he does not reside in the same household as that child. Along with paying child support, he will be awarded visitation and custody rights to your child. This means that he will be able to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing and time to spend with the child.

Acknowledgment of Paternity forms can be completed at a child support office, hospital, or by contacting the Office of the Attorney General. The father of your child can sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity before the birth of your child. If the father cannot attend the delivery of your child, you and he may go to a child support office to file an Acknowledgment of Paternity before the birth of that child.

What happens if you are married to a man who is not the biological father of your child?

If you are married to a man who is not the biological father of your child, your husband will be legally presumed to be the father of your child. The actual father to your child cannot become the legal father even by signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity. First, the presumed father must sign a denial of paternity form. Unless your husband signs that form, you or the biological father must file a case in the family courts to establish paternity.

If you are not sure who the biological father of your child is, you will be put into an exciting spot. The reason is that if you were to apply for social services like SNAP, food stamps, or Medicaid, then you will be asked questions about who the father of your child is.

Finally, you and the father need to be prepared to care for the child even if your pregnancy was not planned. The law does not say anything about a lowered level of support obligation if you had a child that you did not plan for. Your child’s father is just as responsible for the care of your child as you are. Once the child’s biological father is determined by law, he becomes accountable for the support of his child.

Paternity testing

If the father of your child disputes paternity, he can ask for a paternity test. The judge will order a test to be conducted, and the judge will examine the results. Depending on the test results, he will either be declared the legal father or will be excluded based on a negative DNA test.

Enforcing a child support order

Sometimes, a noncustodial parent fails to pay the ordered amount of child support. Either the payments may come consistently late, come in part, or may not come at all. In that case, either you or the Office of the Attorney General may file an enforcement case with that court. An enforcement case seeks to hold the nonpaying parent responsible for violating the court order.

A court can require that the father’s employer deduct court-ordered child support from his paycheck. This is typically done through a document called a wage withholding order. The order will be filed with the court and provided to the human resources department at the father’s employer to ensure compliance with the terms of the child support order.

Income tax refund checks are also fair game to be taken for child support arrearages. Courts can suspend licenses to operate vehicles, hunt, or fish to “motivate” a father to support the child. The most extreme punishment that can be meted out for the failure to pay child support is to impose a jail sentence on the father. That jail sentence will not exceed 180 days.

Custody and visitation of a child, in detail

It does not matter if you see your child every day or once a month- you have the same obligation to support your child as the other parent. We typically see child support paid by a noncustodial parent to a custodial parent through the Office of the Attorney General. The noncustodial parent may argue in a court case for child support that he deserves to be named the custodial parent. Their motivation to do so may be rooted in a desire to be no longer responsible for paying child support.

Keep in mind that even if the child’s father is not paying child support to you, you are not entitled to withhold visitation with the child from him. Child support and visitation are separate issues, and one does not depend on the other. The bottom line is that you will need to obey the court order regarding visitation and allow the father to see your child, even if he does not mind the order regarding child support.

What is the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA)?

It isn’t easy to collect child support across state lines. Part of the reason for this is that the laws of each state vary slightly when it comes to managing child support. Congress created the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) to help ease these difficulties associated with collecting child support across state lines.

For instance, suppose that you and your child’s father do not live in the same state and have no pre-existing child support order in place from any state. Even under these circumstances, a court of either of the conditions you both life can create a child support order under UIFSA. UIFSA requires states to work together to create a child support order for the benefit of your child.

The problem that UIFSA was created to solve was that before its creation, different states could create other support orders for a child, given a long enough period. If you attempted to enforce one of those orders, you could find yourself in a tricky position due to multiple court orders in place. How much support would you be owed? What state’s order was controlling, and how would the child support be collected? These were common questions that parents and states were running into. Caught in the middle of it all were children who were not getting the assistance they needed.

UIFSA allows for only one support order to be in place for a child at any given time. Since the passage of this law, the policy that has been put into place is that a court can register an out-of-state child support order to modify or enforce the order in a new state. The process is pretty straightforward. The state agency of your former state would send the order and any related documents to Texas. The Office of the Attorney General in Texas would then register the order and send a notice to the other parent. That parent would have twenty days to object to being registered in Texas.

If that objection is timely (received before the expiration of the 20-day waiting period), then a hearing will be scheduled. You and the other parent will be notified when the hearing is scheduled for. Both you and the other parent will present evidence to the judge as to why or why not the order should be registered in Texas. If any child support is owed to you, that amount will be determined in this hearing, as well.

Enforcement lawsuits and the impact of UIFSA

Child support can be collected in Texas much easier due to UIFSA. If you are owed child support, then you can either file a lawsuit yourself or rely upon the Office of the Attorney General to pursue the arrearage through an enforcement lawsuit. A Texas family court would not need to rely upon the state court where the order originated to move forward with a lawsuit. Suppose the other parent fails to answer the enforcement petition and does not appear at a final hearing. In that case, a wage withholding order can be sent to his employer (if one is known), and collection on the back-child support can begin immediately.

On the other hand, it may work out better for you and your child to work with the child support agency from your former state to collect back child support. For example, it could be that the child support order was only registered in Texas to enforce that court order and not for modifying it. UIFSA allows you to do so.

What to do if you need to modify an out-of-state child support order?

If you have seen a change in your circumstances, your child’s, or that of the other parent, then a modification may be in order. For example, suppose the other parent has experienced a job promotion that you have become aware of or has become unemployed or disabled. In that case, their ability to pay child support may have been impacted as well.

UIFSA sets the rules for modifying a court order based on the state where the order originated, Texas law, as well as what the order itself says about child support.

For example, if you, your child, and your child’s father all lived in Arkansas previously but no longer live there now, Arkansas may not be able to modify the amount of child support that you receive. To modify child support, the order must be registered for modification purposes in Texas. We see this in situations where more than one state has issued a child support order (such as if Arkansas and Texas both did in this situation) and you and your family no longer live in either state; then a new order must be created.

In the alternative, you and the other parent may agree in writing that a state where one of you reside (such as Texas) can modify an order and take control of the case. Or, you can both agree that Arkansas (or any other state that issued a child support order where neither of you resides) can do the same. It depends on your circumstances and the desires of both you and the other parent.

At that time, that Texas was to modify the Arkansas child support order, the new child support number would be set according to the laws of Texas- not Arkansas. Any state that you move to in the future would be bound by the number set by the Texas family court. The only thing that a Texas court could not change from the original Arkansas order is how long the child support order is to last.

Questions about UIFSA and child support? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

Child support is a pretty complicated subject. It becomes even more complex if you and your child’s other parent do not reside in the same state. If you find yourself in a tricky situation involving child support and residences in multiple states, you are best served by contacting the Law Office of Bryan Fagan today. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week where we can address your problems and answer your questions.

We take a great deal of pride in serving the people of our community across the family courts of southeast Texas. We work hard to put our clients’ interests ahead of our own and advocate strongly on their behalf. Our attorneys are known across our area for a commitment to ideals of hard work and achieving desired results for clients. Contact us today to find out how we can best serve you and your family.

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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Spring Divorce Lawyer

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it’s essential to speak with ar Spring, TX Divorce Lawyer right away to protect your rights.

A divorce lawyer in Spring, TX, is 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 Divorce cases in Spring, Texas, Cypress, Spring, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, 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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