Filing a Lien Against Your Ex-spouse to Enforce Past-Due Child Support

Navigating the aftermath of a divorce can be daunting, especially when it involves unpaid child support from your ex-spouse. While the occasional missed payment might seem manageable, prolonged non-payment can disrupt your entire household budget. In today’s economic landscape, where inflation and the cost of living are on the rise, every dollar counts. As household savings plummet and credit card debt escalates, it’s imperative to explore legal options for unpaid child support. Understanding your rights and avenues for enforcement can provide the necessary recourse to ensure financial stability for you and your children.

What does all of this have to do with child support and missed payments? Quite a bit. If you are a parent who receives child support each month odds are good that you do not think of the child support as something nice to get on top of your other sources of income. Rather, you likely look at child support as a necessity to keep the lights on and the bellies in your house feed. If your ex-spouse misses a child support payment that can cause real problems for you and your children. This is especially true if you have just wrapped up a divorce and are not yet working full-time. As a result, the child support that you receive may be a huge chunk of your monthly income.

Taking action against your ex

Therefore, when your ex-spouse misses multiple payments, you need to be serious about how you are going to address this issue. Taking these missed payments laying down is not going to solve the problem. Think of it like when a wasp gets into your house. It’d be nice to leave for the day and find that the wasp problem just went away. However, that’s not how it works. When you get back home the wasp is still going to be there. You need to deal with the insect head-on before it stings you. Same thing with missed child support. If you do not deal with your ex-spouse’s missed child support payments head-on, then you risk it becoming a problem that is even more out of control than it is now.

In today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, our licensed family law attorneys will discuss with you the mechanics of filing a lien against your ex-spouse for missed child support payments. What does it mean to file a lien, what is an enforcement case and how can this help you to get back on your feet and get your budget on the right track? After our blog post if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video where we can answer questions and help you sort out your options in a variety of different family law-related areas.

Enforcement of child support payments

When it comes to missed child support payments you need to be able to hold your ex-spouse accountable for those missed payments. Missing these payments goes beyond mere annoyance; it can profoundly affect your family. Your Final Decree of Divorce outlines all court orders regarding child support, with the monthly payment amount being the pivotal one.

Usually, the child support you receive is based on the number of children involved in the case and the income of your co-parent. Calculating this income can be complex, especially if your ex-spouse has multiple income sources. However, the calculation involves determining their net monthly income and applying a percentage to establish your child support payment. Or you and your ex-spouse may have come up with your methods to calculate child support based on the specific circumstances of your family.

If one of your children requires specialized care due to a physical or mental impairment, you may require child support beyond the guideline levels outlined in the Texas Family Code. Doctor’s visits, therapy, specific types of food, and other daily needs of a disabled child can add up quickly in terms of cost. Therefore, it may be necessary for your co-parent to pay more than the guideline levels of support.

Managing child support in shared custody arrangements

On the other hand, if you and your ex-spouse share possession of your time on something like a 50/50 basis then you may not require a guidelines level of support due to the frequency with which both parents see your child. You may need to figure out a plan on how to divide up out-of-pocket costs or medical costs, things of this nature. However, since you are both with your child on an even basis there would not be the need for one parent to pay the other a “standard” amount of child support. Child support in your case might have been determined based on the income disparity between you and your ex-spouse. This could be a lesser amount of support that can help bridge the gap in your income.

Fortunately, the State of Texas makes it difficult for your ex-spouse to miss child support payments. A wage withholding order should have been completed after the divorce. It’s a document that is sent to your company’s human resources department and is signed by the judge. The wage withholding order instructs human resources to withhold a specific amount of money from your paycheck(s) each month. What this does is remove a lot of the day-to-day stress associated with having to remember to send in child support. It is automated, almost like bill pay setups on your bank account website.

Attorney general’s role in child support enforcement

The Office of the Attorney General oversees this process on behalf of the State of Texas. Many people who have gone through a divorce assume that the Attorney General represents the parent who receives child support in any legal matter. However, this is not the case. The Attorney General can assist parents in paying and receiving child support payments as well as help parents collect child support payments that are past due. However, the attorney general does not represent you or your co-parent in this process. If you decide to file an enforcement case, then you would need to hire an attorney or represent yourself in the case.

One of the options which you can consider to seek relief from a family court for your ex-spouse has failed to pay child support is to place a lien on the property that he or she owns. This is not a topic that is discussed much in the world of Texas family law, so we wanted to write a blog post about it today. However, it may not be the most practical option for you to choose from. Let’s walk through some of the other options that you could potentially select.

Non-lien options for enforcing past-due child support

To retrieve back child support from your ex-spouse, the simplest solution is income deduction, typically facilitated by a wage withholding order. You can request an additional order to withhold wages for child support repayment. The specifics, including the amount to be withheld, will be determined during the hearing based on owed amounts and income. Income taxes, lottery winnings, and other funds owed to your ex-spouse can be intercepted and directed to you for outstanding child support payments. If your ex-spouse is due a federal tax refund, for instance, the judge can order it to be redirected to you with assistance from the Office of the Attorney General, ensuring you receive the support owed.

A license of some sort that is owned by your ex-spouse could be suspended. Things like driver’s licenses, a license to practice law, or even a hunting/fishing license could be suspended if your ex-spouse owes you child support. The inability to perform job duties or recreate on the weekends is a good motivator for most people to pay back child support. Once the child support which is owed is paid in full then the license would be reinstated.

There is also the possibility that your ex-spouse could be let’s test a penalty of having to spend time in jail for failing to pay child support. Bear in mind that the sentence could be no longer than six months depending upon the amount of child support that is owed. Additionally, many times a judge will instead put your ex-spouse on deferred adjudication or probation to allow them to work and pay back the Child Support. However, in many cases, even the threat or possibility of having to go to jail for missing child support payments is enough to keep many people from falling behind in that important responsibility.

Modification of child support

Modification of a child support order is another option that could be available to you or your spouse. In a child support modification scenario, you would be asking the judge to increase or decrease the amount of child support that your ex-spouse has to pay each month. A material and substantial change in circumstances would need to have occurred since the last time that you were in family court to justify a request to modify a court order.

In the context of child support, this usually means that someone’s income would have increased or decreased or the needs of your child would have changed over time. Maybe your son needs mental health counseling regularly which is not covered by health insurance. Or your daughter may require regular visits to the doctor for a type of infusion that helps treat an autoimmune condition that she has recently been diagnosed with. Whatever the situation it is important for you to be aware of what those needs may be and to have the evidence to prove to a judge that a modification is necessary.

How does it work to have a lien placed on your ex-spouse’s property?

A lien is a legal instrument that uses the property as leverage for the enforcement of a debt payment. Here is how it works in the context of child support. Your ex-spouse owes $10,000 in back child support. You would like him to pay that child support back to you as quickly as possible. You can file an enforcement case and ask the court to consider placing a lien against some item of property that he owns. Car, boat, or even a personal injury settlement that he won from getting hit by another vehicle while driving home from work. A lien can attach to these assets, and they cannot be sold or accessed (in the case of a personal injury settlement) until a judgment or deal is reached regarding child support.

If he does try to sell the specific item of the property then a portion of the sale from that asset would go towards paying the child support arrearage. You can talk with him or her to come up with a deal that would satisfy the child support owed so that the lien could be lifted. Keep in mind that the appearance of a lien on some property is enough to keep that property from being sold. Many people simply do not want to deal with this sort of issue so the property would have to be sold at a discount or left on the market until the lien can be lifted. What this means to you is that your ex-spouse should be highly motivated to have the lien lifted- or not placed in the first place.

Exploring options for retrieving back child support

A child support lien puts a freeze on the assets of your ex-spouse. There is another method or tool that can be used to get the back child support that you are owed. An example is a qualified domestic relations order which applies to types of employers sponsored retirement plans. Usually, a retirement plan cannot pay benefits out to anyone who is not named as a planned participant. However, if you go through a divorce and have a qualified domestic relations order set up then money can be paid to you out of your ex-spouse’s retirement plan. A lien can be placed against retirement funds but would only keep them from being distributed. A qualified domestic relations order can force the distribution to occur.

Bear in mind that the placing of a lien on property or assets owned by your ex-spouse is just one of a few different options that can be implemented if your ex-spouse owes you back child support. Unfortunately, this is a situation That happens with some frequency in the world of Texas family law cases. You need to be prepared for this type of event should it happen in your life.

Dealing with delinquent child support: Seeking solutions in Texas

At the end of the day, trying to get back child support from an ex-spouse will take some time. If you truly are in a position where you need that money without any time to spare it would be best for you to investigate options where you can earn some extra income for a short period before you can go to court or negotiate a settlement with your ex-spouse. Nobody would say that this is the best option for you or your family, but it is the current situation that you find yourselves in.

Navigating enforcement cases related to unpaid child support in Texas can be complex and multifaceted. It’s crucial to recognize that these matters require legal expertise and guidance. Attempting to handle such cases without the assistance of an attorney can be risky. When seeking to enforce child support orders, it’s advisable to consult with legal professionals who specialize in family law. At the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, our attorneys have extensive experience representing clients in similar situations. Whether you need clarification on your legal options for unpaid child support or require assistance navigating the intricacies of enforcement proceedings, we are here to provide dedicated support and advocacy.

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Other Updated Articles you may be interested in:

  1. Can I Pause Child Support Arrears?
  2. Child Support Arrears: Dealing With Back Payments
  3. How to Terminate Child Support Arrears in Texas: A Step-by-Step Guide
  4. A Look at Texas Child Support Orders
  5. How is Child Support Calculated in Texas?
  6. Property settlements, child support, and hidden assets of famous soccer star
  7. Child Support is no laughing matter (even for famous soccer players)
  8. How to Terminate Child Support Arrears in Texas: A Step-by-Step Guide
  9. What happens to child support if a parent dies?
  10. Does Child Support End if My Child Gets a Job?
  11. Child support and parental incarceration
  12. What Is Medical Support In Texas?
  13. If you have primary custody (custodial parent), you can still be ordered to pay child support?
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