What can you do when your child support is not paid on time in Texas?

Dealing with missed child support can quickly become a stressful situation. Relying on another person to pay you child support is not ideal. The state of Texas believes that both parents should contribute to the financial well-being of their child. With that said, child support is almost always ordered because of a family law case. The parent who does not have primary custody pays child support. For that reason, parents understandably want to be able to receive child support.

The payment or nonpayment of child support depends upon several factors. As the parent who receives child support, these are factors that are beyond your control. We all have a hard enough time controlling ourselves in our children. To try and argue that you can control the circumstances of your co-parent is absurd. As a result, parents who receive child support need to be aware of what to do if child support is not paid on time.

To better understand the subject of child support in Texas it is worthwhile to go through some of the basic elements of this process. The better you understand child support overall the better you will be able to combat missed child support payments. 

How is child support ordered in a Texas family law case?

Let’s start with the basics. Child support is ordered in almost every family law case involving minor children. One of the major questions that the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan receive is whether child support must be paid in a family law case. The reality of the situation is that almost certainly child support will be ordered in your case. Assuming that you can avoid child support would be a mistake.

The state of Texas wants both parents to a child to have a financial stake in that child’s life. As a result, we see that child support is ordered to be paid in most cases involving minor children. One parent Is named the primary conservator of children and receives child support. On the other hand, another parent is named as a possessory conservator and pays child support. This is the basic distinction drawn in situations involving parents and the payment of child support.

When it comes to ordering child support in a family law case it is more often that the parties themselves agree to an amount. Judges only become involved when the parties themselves cannot agree to an amount to be paid. In family law cases you and your co-parent are allowed to work through these issues yourselves. This contrasts with what many people believe about family law cases.

How does child support get from one parent to the other?

Once you have established which parent pays child support in which parent receives child support the next question is determining how the money gets from one parent to the other. This is usually a very straightforward situation. A wage withholding order is set up at the end of your child custody case. That order is sent to your employer and instructs them how much money to withhold each month for child support. This way you do not actively have to think about getting money to the right places for child support.

Once the money is sent from one parent it goes through the Office of the Attorney General Child Support Division. The OAG then sends the money to you as the receiving parent. Both parents can check the website for the OAG to verify how much money has been paid and how much money still needs to be paid in child support. This way there is no doubt or arguing over how much money is paid in child support.

Related to the subject, a common question that the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan receive is whether it is a good idea to pay child support directly to your co-parent. This is a reasonable question, especially for those parents who do not want to go through the office of the attorney general. Doing so is seen as an extra step or just another complication in the process. So, what sort of benefit is there to indirectly paying child support?

Do not pay child support directly to your co-parent 

To all the parents out there who are wondering about paying child support directly to your co-parent: it is a good idea not to do this. For one, your court orders likely instruct you to pay child support through the OAG For this reason alone you should pay child support through their office. However, there are practical reasons why you should consider paying child support through the OAG.

For one, the OAG keeps a ledger of payments on its website. This way you can be sure that the payments you send are being kept up with and tracked accurately. The last thing that you want to run into is a situation where you and your child’s other parent get into consistent arguments over the payment of child support. One of the reasons why child support is so emotionally charged is disagreements exactly like this.

However, paying child support through the OAG avoids situations like this. For that reason, paying child support directly to your child’s other parent does not give you credit for having done so. Specifically, if you ever find yourself in court for matters related to the payment of child support it is the OAG ledger that becomes the most critical piece of evidence. All of your indirect payments of child support do not show up on this ledger. As a result, it is best to pay child support directly to your co-parent.

When can the payment of child support become a problem for families?

As we mentioned earlier in today’s blog post child support frequently becomes a topic of division for families. Oftentimes this is through no fault of anyone in particular. Rather, families simply encounter the same issues that plague families throughout our country. We are going to spend some time now discussing some of those issues. Then, we can spend some time going through how to combat these issues.

Child support is not a bill as we typically think of bills that are paid to various places. Your light bill, your mortgage, and your car payment period are traditional bills that many of us have period they relate to services or products that we own or receive. Therefore, we owe money for having received them previously. However, child support is something distinct from these types of situations. We do not receive a payment, service, or any other kind of benefit from the payment of child support. Rather, paying child support is more of an institutionalized method of parenting.

When you think about it, but for the family law case you would be paying this child support directly for the benefit of your child during the year. However, the main difference is that once you go through a child custody case your obligation to pay support ends up being something that has turned into a court order. This makes the order easier to enforce which we will get to in a moment. However, child support not being paid always starts with a root cause.

What are some of the causes of missed child support?

Experienced family law attorneys such as those with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan run into circumstances involving miss child support all the time. Some of these circumstances are unavoidable. However, some of them can be avoided with proper planning and forethought. The situation your family finds itself in will determine which category you fall into. 

For starters, missing a child support payment is something that needs to be taken seriously. It is not just a run-of-the-mill occasion to miss a child support payment. Rather, steps need to be taken to minimize the risk to your children for missing child support payments. Ultimately, it is your children who suffer when child support is missed. You can have whatever opinion on your co-parent that you would like. However, this is the person entrusted to care for your children daily. Your child support payments reflect that reality.

A lack of income is the most frequently cited reason why child support payments are missed. Understandably, most people’ll pay child support if they have the money to do so. Most parents will pay child support before they pay any of their bills. Therefore, it is a telltale sign that a person lacks income when child support is not paid. Keeping a close eye on your household budget helps you to avoid problems with missed child support.

A household budget and emergency fund

If you are a parent who pays child support then having a household budget is essential for your success. The reality is that most of us do not have a household budget. We simply spend money when we have it and hope that everything works out in the end. Most of us do not run into issues that are too extreme each month. We managed to get by with not having a budget somewhat successfully. However, it only takes one bad month to put us in a position where we suffer the consequences of not having a budget.

A monthly household budget tells your money where to go. It does not constrain you from spending or put you in a strait-jacket as far as your habits are concerned. Rather, a good budget allows you to have the freedom and peace to spend money the way that it needs to be spent for your family. It should come as no surprise that people who budget consistently have a better understanding of their household needs than the person who does not budget.

Most household budgets do not have to be complicated. Taking a legal pad writing your gross income at the top and then deducting each of your monthly expenses is all it takes. Some bills are the same each month while others vary. It may take you some time to figure out how much to allocate for groceries or other variable expenses each month however, being this intentional creates a situation where you are better off in the long run on behalf of your family.

An emergency fund helps to prevent missed child support

They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In other words, by preventing any issue from occurring save yourself from having to go through a lot of problems down the line. Sometimes the effort to prevent a problem from arising does not have to be significant. When it comes to your finances a small amount of restraint each month goes a long way towards preventing overspending and missed payments.

When it comes to child support, I am talking about having an emergency fund. Financial gurus recommend that people have an emergency fund of at least three to six months. This does not mean that you must become a saver to the extreme. That would not make sense. However, having some emergency funds available to you each month allows you to draw upon that money if you do lose your job.

On a practical level, you likely would be much less worried about missing child support payments if you had an emergency fund. For example, being able to draw on an emergency fund for a few months to pay child support is exactly why you have an emergency fund in the first place. This prevents any of the bad outcomes related to nonpayment of child support from occurring.

Let’s put the shoe on the other foot. Now assume that you are the parent who receives child support every month. One month you go to your checking account on the 1st to see what your balance looks like. It comes as a surprise when you see that there is less money than you would have expected in your account. Specifically, this is the case when you see that there is no child support deposit as there typically is.

The next thing you do is go to the OAG’s website to see if they’re not a child support payment has been made. When you see that there is not been your first reaction may be to become upset and angry. However, what you can choose to do in this situation is reach out to your co-parent. Ask him for an explanation as to why no child support had been paid that month. He may provide you with a reasonable explanation.

In any event, you also have legal options to pursue if missed child support becomes a reality for your family. You need to consider your options and pursue them with caution. However, allowing missed child support to become habitual for your co-parent is not reasonable. For that reason, filing an enforcement lawsuit becomes your best legal means to prevent this from occurring.

An enforcement lawsuit for child support

The basic legal case you would pursue if child support is missed would be to file an enforcement. An enforcement petition points out the specific dates on which child support was not paid and the total amount of money owed. Again, citing to the OAG’s website is the best way to present the court with evidence about the missed child support. In terms of additional information, you can consult with an experienced family law attorney to determine if any other information should be provided in your petition.

Your co-parent would respond with an answer to your petition. He would likely have a defense for why child support has not been paid. Whether that defense is honored by a judge is an entirely different story. However, expect to have to answer a defense from your co-parent.

An enforcement lawsuit puts you in a position where you can request relief from the court. That relief includes back child support, penalties, and even jail time for your co-parent. With the stakes so high in a child support enforcement case you must have an experienced attorney by your side. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan appreciates your time spent with us today on our blog. We post unique and informative content about the world of Texas family law every day of the week.  Our attorneys seek to post content that is helpful to the people in our community. It happens all the time that our blog readers become our clients.

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan    

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, 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. Interested in learning more about how your family is impacted by the material in this blog post? Contact us today.

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