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Important yet infrequently discussed issues in child support enforcement

If you have an ex-spouse who was ordered in your divorce to pay child support then you know all too well that feeling of unease when a payment is not received by the first of the month. It wasn’t supposed to be this way, you may be thinking. When you divorced your attorney did all the right stuff- she got your ex-spouse to sign an order that had his employer withholding the correct portions of his check on a bi-monthly basis.

Those chunks of money were sent to your bank account through the Office of the Attorney General. You were told that this would ensure that payments were made on time and you wouldn’t fall behind on paying for rent or groceries.

Fast forward a few years and your ex-spouse has changed jobs and that withholding order is worthless. You haven’t received child support in a few months and things at home are getting tight. You were forced to get back into the workforce after your divorce and you’re still not earning all that much money. Your plan was to finish your college degree so you could jump up a few pay grades at work but now that plan is going to have to be put on the backburner.

Today, the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC would like to discuss the topic of child support enforcement with you. While child support enforcement is obviously an important topic, sub-topics like the failure of your ex-spouse to pay medical support for your children as well as how to best collect on the past child support owed will be discussed today.

A key to understand is that it does not take but one enforcement action, and then one contempt finding against your ex-spouse to potentially have a judge order him to go to jail for his failure to pay support. We would like to make sure that you are aware of the tools that attorneys use to collect judgments on behalf of clients who are in your position.

Collecting medical support payments

Part of your Divorce Decree not only orders your ex-spouse to pay you child support but also to pay you medical support payments or to outright provide health insurance coverage for your children. It works this way: either your ex-spouse will ensure your children through a plan at his workplace or he will pay you cash medical support to reimburse you for the premiums that you pay either through a private health insurance plan that you have purchased or one that you have through your employer.

Expenses that are not covered by a health insurance plan will be split 50/50 in most cases but you can check your Final Decree of Divorce to verify that for your particular circumstances. The medical support costs are typically included on top of the monthly child support obligation in a wage withholding order the sort that we discussed in the opening section to this blog post.

What happens when you are receiving child support but the new year arrives with a hike in the premiums that you pay for insurance for your child? Your ex-spouse will not automatically be made aware of the increase and when you actually get around to telling him he says that he will look into it but never truly pays it any heed. How can you enforce the change in premium costs and make sure that you do not fall any further behind in paying your own bills as a result?

A second situation that I would like to explore with you involves uninsured expenses, which depending on your health insurance plan can be quite expansive and varied. Since these costs come up every so often and are as a result difficult to anticipate, how can you as a parent make sure that your ex-spouse is held to account for paying their ordered portion?

Now that we’ve posed a few questions, let’s get to the answers.

You can submit uninsured medical expenses at any time

There is no time limit to submit the uninsured expenses that you have incurred on behalf of your child. Medical bills do not need to submitted in under thirty days to be enforceable in a family law court. You may be thinking to yourself that you’ve read through your divorce decree a number of times and have seen language that says that you and your ex-spouse must submit bills that were uninsured to the other ex-spouse within thirty days so their split of the costs could be paid to you.

A reimbursement, essentially. The only thing that not submitting these bills within thirty days of their being received means is that you cannot ask a court to hold your ex-spouse in contempt for the failure to pay their 50% portion of the bill.

The easiest thing you can do on a practical level is to submit uninsured expenses to your ex-spouse on a regular and timely basis. While it would have been better to learn this lesson during your actual divorce, now is now a bad time to develop this habit and is not at all too late to start learning. Technology is your friend. Cameras on phones, handy scanners attached to home computers and text messages make it easy to get a bill, save it for your records and then send a photo of pdf of the bill to your ex-spouse.

Obviously, you have to be at least somewhat organized to pull this off. Having a stack of bills sitting on the countertop for months without going through them is a recipe for disaster. Once you receive a bill that you will pay out of pocket expenses for, I would immediately take the bill and email it to your ex-spouse so that he has it and that you have a record of it being sent. Use technology, like a reminder of your phone, to make sure that you do so on a set date each month. If you do it like this the process becomes like paying a utility bill rather than being forced to look through difficult to read medical bills.

If you are in a position where you have never done what I have outlined and you do have that stack of bills sitting on the counter go ahead and do the work to send them all out to your ex-spouse. You won’t be receiving a Christmas card for doing so- nobody wants to receive an email with ten different requests for money- but it is what it is. I would tell your ex-spouse that he has a set amount of days to pay those co-pays or other out of pocket expenses. If not, a date with the judge is in both of your futures.

How to handle an increase in health insurance premiums

To answer the first question that we posed in this blog post it is better to just ask an attorney to prepare a new withholding order based on your ex-spouse’s change in employers. This can be done rather inexpensively and all it takes is hiring an attorney and notifying your ex-spouse of the increase in insurance premiums.

Open enrollment takes place in September so you may notice that your rates change around this time. Speak to your ex-spouse directly on the subject and if he wavers let him know that you will be hiring an attorney to make sure the increase in costs is addressed through a new wage withholding order.

You can proceed to a hearing on the subject with a judge if your ex-spouse still refuses to play ball. Since you notified him of the change in writing you do not have to hire a process server to provide notice of the situation.

What you need to prioritize in a child support enforcement case- tomorrow’s blog post subject

Please return to our blog tomorrow in order to continue our discussion on this important subject. We appreciate your time and attention today in being with us. If you have any questions about this subject or any other in family law please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We offer free of charge consultations to people like you who need answers to their questions. Our consultations are free of charge and can go a long way towards helping you decide which way you need to go in a particular situation.

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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Enforcement Lawyers

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

Our enforcement lawyers in Houston TX are 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 enforcement 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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