Generally speaking, the payment of child support is intended to ensure that the child has the financial wherewithal to grow up to be successful members of society. Whether that child support comes about from a divorce, child custody or paternity case, it is meant to help a child who no longer lives in a two-parent household. As a parent, the payment of child support is intended to help ensure you always fulfill your obligation to support your child even if you no longer reside with him or her.
To help children receive this support, parents like you work with the family courts of Texas as well as with the Office of the Attorney General. The Office of the Attorney General collects payments and distributes them to parents across the state. That entity will also enforce child support orders that are not followed or adhered to.
As I mentioned briefly in the opening paragraph to today’s blog post, the Office of the Attorney General will also establish paternity for a child by filing lawsuits to establish legal fatherhood in men across our State. While the Office of the Attorney General does not represent either parent in a child support case, that State agency does serve an important role in the overall process.
Who is able to apply for child support through the Office of the Attorney General?
The Office of the Attorney General will accept applications from parents just like you- whether they be mothers or fathers- in order to request that child support services be initiated. Keep in mind that the attorneys with their office do not represent parents in child support matters, however. Because of this, it is advisable that you seek private representation before you begin a child support case. In large part, this is because other matters- custody, visitation, possession, etc.- will be decided in this case as well.
If you are a low-income Texan and have applied for and received Medicaid and other state-sponsored programs you will be automatically put in contact with the Office of the Attorney General in order to initiate child support proceedings if that has not already occurred.
How long will it take to actually receive child support payments from the other parent?
There are a number of factors that are in play during a child support case. As result, it is hard to say with any certainty how long it will take for you to actually see child support payments in your bank account as a result of a court case you were involved in.
For instance, if you need to locate your child's parent, have him declared as the legal father of your child through DNA testing and then establish an amount of child support to be paid, that can take months to do. In many instances, you will go through this process only to find that the father never pays you a dime of child support. In that instance, you would need to enforce the child support order by filing another case with the court. Without doing so it is unlikely that the father will ever pay the child support he has been ordered to.
How to best ensure that the noncustodial parent pays child support
In the context of a child support case, you will be known as the custodial parent. The custodial parent has physical possession of a child more often than not. You will also have the right to determine the primary residence of the child. On the other hand, the noncustodial parent will have established visitation rights with the child but cannot determine his or her primary residence. Noncustodial parents pay child support in order to make up for the fact that the other parent pays more expenses associated with raising the child due to their being in possession of the child more frequently.
If you know where the noncustodial parent lives, their employer’s name and the employer’s address you are at a distinct advantage. The reason is that even if the other parent never shows up to a court hearing or meeting with the Office of the Attorney General, you can still work with the State to establish a wage withholding order that would automatically send child support payments to you from the noncustodial parent’s paychecks.
Going to court to establish a child support obligation for the noncustodial parent means coming prepared. First of all, you will need to bring to your attorney or the Office of the Attorney General a copy of the Acknowledgment of Paternity that the man or woman signed. Your child’s birth certificate will also be needed. Finally, if the noncustodial parent has ever paid you child support, even informal payments made directly to you, you should bring a copy of those payments.
What happens if you have a child support order in place but it needs to be changed?
It is understandable if your circumstances, or that of your child, change over the course of a few years. For instance, your child may have become disabled as a result of a car accident since the last time that you were in court. As such, he may now require an increased amount of child support to pay for doctor and therapy visits.
Likewise, the noncustodial parent’s income may have increased dramatically over the course of a few years. A new job can lead to better pay, and since child support is determined by multiplying a percentage against the noncustodial parent’s net monthly resources, a big increase in pay could lead to an increased child support obligation. However, you will see no benefit from this unless you were to initiate a child support modification through the court.
The Texas Family Code specifies the grounds that a modification case can be based on. You have to go through the same court that issued your first child support order, in order so that you may modify the current order. You can work with the noncustodial parent on an informal basis to modify what is paid but nothing is official or enforceable in court unless you work with a judge to do so.
Specifically, you will need to show that there has been a material and substantial change in the circumstances of either your child, you, or the noncustodial parent in order to get a modification of the child support portion of the order. In the alternative, if three or more years have passed since the time your last order was issued then you may come back for a modification. Many parents will contact the Office of the Attorney General after a three year period has elapsed in order to have them conduct a review of their child support order.
What happens if the noncustodial parent is broke, out of work and/or has no money?
This is, unfortunately, a relatively common occurrence for noncustodial parents. Either that parent may be in school and not working or may be out of work for any number of reasons. While there may be justifiable reasons why that parent is not earning any income currently, it still puts you in a difficult spot as far as paying the bills of your household and supporting your child.
Regardless of the noncustodial parent’s current status as employed, unemployed or a student, he or she is still responsible for contributing to the support of their child. Even if the noncustodial parent of your child is young and still in school, a judge will look to that parent's income and determine the correct amount of child support to be paid.
What if you don’t know who is the father of your child?
It could be that you find yourself in a position where you are not 100% sure who the biological father of your child is, but you do have a man who you believe to be the father who is already providing de-facto child support for your child. In cases like that, you may wonder whether or not it is even necessary to file a paternity case to establish who is the legal father. After all- why rock the apple cart when your child is being cared for already?
With that being said, I would always seek to have court orders established in regard to child support and paternity. The reason for this is that people can change their minds and that support may come to an end. If you are relying on the kindness of another person to help support your child, with no other assurances that he will continue to do so, that is a huge risk in my mind. A court order will allow you to hold him accountable for the failure to pay child support if he fails to do so in the future.
For unmarried parents of a child, your child will not be able to inherit money or social security benefits through the father unless legal paternity is established. On a more practical level, you may not be able to support your child on your own without assistance from the other parent. By failing to go to court and obtain a court order establishing paternity and child support you are denying your child what he or she is entitled to- the legal relationship with both parents to support and care for him or her.
Here is something that many parents do not consider when it comes to determining who the biological parent of a child is. Suppose that your child's biological father has a medical condition that may shorten his life dramatically unless treatment was received early in their life. Wouldn't you and your child's doctor like to know this before it is too late? Unless you can definitely find out who the child's father is this is not possible unless you have legal paternity established by the court.
Establishing paternity and its impact on visitation and custody
Along with the responsibility of every parent to support their child emotionally and financially comes the right to be able to spend time with that child. In family law, these rights are commonly referred to as custody and visitation. If you and your child's other parent cannot agree on custody and visitation arrangements, a court can intervene in order to do so. You and the other parent are bound by the court orders and must follow them. Visitation and child support are not tied together in the sense that you cannot withhold visitation from the other parent because he or is not paying child support, and vice versa.
How is paternity established by a court in Texas?
If you and the father of the child can come to an agreement on whether he is the father of your child, then you each can sign a form called an Acknowledgment of Paternity. This is the legal document that establishes paternity once filed with the Texas Vital Statistics Unit. If you are not sure who the father of your child is then you should not sign an Acknowledgment. You can work to file a court case seeking for the judge to establish who the father of your child is.
Do you have more questions on child support and paternity? Stay tuned until tomorrow
We will pick up where we left off today and will continue to discuss this topic tomorrow. If you have any questions about the material that we covered today or need clarification on anything, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan.
Our office offers free of charge consultations six days a week with our licensed family law attorneys. These consultations are a great opportunity for you to seek advice and perspective on your specific circumstances. It is our privilege to be able to serve the community that we live in by advocating in the family law courts of southeast Texas on behalf of our clients. We thank you for spending some time with us today and hope to be able to assist you with your family law case in the future.
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Can my Texas Driver's License Be Suspended for Not paying Child Support?
- Child Support Modification in Texas (Part 1)
- What do I do if I have overpaid child support in Texas?
- Child Custody Basics in Texas
- Child Support and College Tuition in Texas
- Texas Child Support Appeals
- In Texas are Child Support and Visitation Connected?
- Texas Child Support – Trust and Annuities
- Special Needs Children in Texas Child Support Cases
- How to get above guideline child support.
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 important 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 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.