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Child Support Cases in Texas IV-D Courts: What to Know Before You Go

In Texas, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) oversees the payment of child support. An existing child support order typically mandates that your payments go through the OAG. If you miss a payment or fail to pay in full, the Attorney General or your child’s other parent likely has requested a court date. This session will address the issue of non-payment. Additionally, if your child benefits from government assistance, like Medicaid, Food Stamps, or SNAP, the OAG automatically takes part in your child support case. The IV-D program of the OAG handles only-paternity establishment and child support cases.

What happens if the other parent told you that you wouldn’t have to pay child support?

You may be in a situation where your child’s other parent had promised you that you would not have to pay child support. You may have an agreement in place where you could assist when you are able. Or your child may be with you so much that it would not make sense to have you or the other parent pay support.

However, even if the other parent made this promise to you, if that parent receives any of the government-subsidized assistance that we discussed previously today then the Office of the Attorney General will file a lawsuit seeking to establish a child support obligation for you. The OAG’s IV-D program deals with only-paternity establishment and child support cases. You must repay the State of Texas for the assistance provided to your child.  While the services may be free for your child, they are not free for the State.

When you first learn about a child support lawsuit involving your child’s other parent, your instinct might be to get upset for “breaking their promise.” However, it’s crucial to recognize that they may not have initiated the case. More often, the State files the lawsuit, aiming to recoup the costs of social programs that are in use. While the other parent can indeed file a child support lawsuit, it’s usually the State’s action in these situations.

What people work on IV-D court cases?

The Office of the Attorney General’s child support division will work on behalf of the State of Texas. One of the attorneys with that office will speak for the State in any hearings with the judge. This attorney handles enforcement of prior child support obligations, paternity rights establishment, and other issues in these hearings.

You can consider the Office of the Attorney General as the watchdog of child support in Texas. They ensure timely and full child support payments. If you are responsible for reimbursing your child’s other parent for medical payments this also falls under their purview. Remember that you must support your child, no matter how much you can see him or her.

What do all these words mean that are contained in the Petition?

A Petition is the initial pleading (filing) in a legal case. It establishes the issues for the court to decide, the involved parties, and the legal justification for the petitioner’s request. The Petitioner is the party that filed the lawsuit. As we discussed earlier, this is likely to be the Office of the Attorney General or your child’s other parent.

You are probably the respondent in the court papers, the person being sued by the Petitioner. Even if you had no prior court orders, finding yourself in court doesn’t necessarily mean you did anything wrong. Keep in mind that your attitude determines largely how your case will proceed. Understanding that you are there to ensure your child’s well-being might make you less resistant to paying child support. On the other hand, if you get angry at your child’s other parent for being there then your experience will likely suffer as a result.

A Custodial Parent is a parent (either you or the other parent) who has physical custody of your child for the majority of the time. A Non-Custodial Parent is a parent who has physical custody of your child for a smaller part of the time in comparison to the custodial parent. Most parents in Texas family law cases become joint managing conservators, sharing decision-making responsibilities for the child.

What does the timeline look like as far as signing paperwork in the courthouse?

Before your hearing, the attorney assigned to your case will likely take you aside and speak to you privately about being able to agree on an order. This will require a settlement with your child’s other parent as well as with the Office of the Attorney General. Only-paternity establishment and child support cases are the sole focus of the OAG’s IV-D program. Without a settlement, a hearing will be held before the judge.

Can You Seek a Judge’s Guidance When Dealing with the OAG?

If you do not believe that you can communicate freely with the Office of the Attorney General, or that your child’s other parent is being unreasonable in the things he or she is asking for then you can ask to see the judge before signing anything. Keep in mind that the judge is there to administer these cases and make decisions. He or she is not there to provide you with legal advice. It is permissible to ask the judge questions, but the judge is not there to provide you with advice, other than the possibility of your hiring an attorney to represent you.

Most likely, you won’t fully grasp everything presented to you by the Office of the Attorney General. They convey information rapidly and are not required to explain every detail of the order they want you to sign. If you are not clear on something or a concept does not make sense to you, then you should not sign anything. You can ask the judge for a continuance to allow you some time to hire an attorney to be able to advise you on these subjects.

It is not uncommon for a potential client to come into our office and express frustration with the process before they hired an attorney. The main thing to keep in mind is that just because you don’t completely understand something, that is not a defense for the failure to act by the order later on. Saying that you didn’t read the whole thing is not a defense either. When in doubt, do not sign anything and seek a continuance.

What is a Suit to Determine Parentage?

If you are served with a Suit to Determine Parentage by a constable, police officer, or process server, you must attend a court hearing. The Notice of Hearing included with the lawsuit provides the date, time, and location. Make sure to attend the hearing, even if it means rearranging your work schedule.

Missing this court date can lead to significant issues, both currently and in the future. Even if you are not the child’s biological father, the judge can declare you the legal father if you miss this important hearing. The OAG’s IV-D program is specifically dedicated to only-paternity establishment and child support cases.

Either if you do or do not believe yourself to be the father of the child in question, you can request that you take a paternity test. The child’s mother may ask for a paternity test, as well. Before signing any legal paperwork establishing parental rights, it’s crucial to get tested. Remember that there are rights and duties to raising a child, including that paying child support and medical support. A gut feeling that you are the child’s father is not enough to sign paperwork. You should ask for a paternity test if nobody else has.

Do you need an attorney to go to IV-D court?

You can request a paternity test from the court without an attorney, and doing so is not offensive. It’s possible that you have a strong emotional bond with the child in question, having cared for them as a father figure since their birth. However, even if you feel that you know that you are the father of the child you should still ask for a paternity test.

Before your hearing, you can speak to the Office of the Attorney General’s lawyer to explain to them the situation as you see it. This helps them prepare for any requests you might make in front of the judge. Only-paternity establishment and child support cases are managed by the OAG’s IV-D program. Keep in mind that if the Attorney General’s lawyer does not seem friendly or tries to push your case along without a paternity test you should not go along with them. They are not the judge. A paternity test will likely be ordered, and you will be asked to return to court later for the results.

What happens if you are determined to not be the father of the child?

If genetic tests prove you’re not the biological father, your court involvement may conclude, and any legal documents with your name, like a birth certificate, must be updated. If the DNA test confirms your paternity, please visit our blog tomorrow for answers to your questions and more.

Questions about child support or child custody matters? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

The attorneys at Bryan Fagan Law take pride in representing people from our community. Our objective is to offer client-first advocacy in the field of family law. Across southeast Texas, we have argued on behalf of clients in family courts.

To learn more about us and to ask questions about your situation please do not hesitate to contact our office. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week with our attorneys. These consultations are a great opportunity to sit down in a comfortable and pressure-free environment. You can ask questions and receive honest feedback about your circumstances and family. Thank you for your time and consideration.

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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Child Support Lawyers

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

Our child support 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 child support 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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