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Child Support Enforcement cases in Texas IV-D courts

When I am writing a blog post here on our website, I always try to do my best to give the post a title that will catch the eye of people like you who search the internet for answers to common (and uncommon) family law questions. I know what it's like to look for an answer on the internet. There are a ton of bad answers, ok answers and every once in a while, you will come upon an answer that suits you perfectly. It answers everything that you need, whether you like the information or not. The title is the thing that will catch your attention on a search engine results page, so I do my best to have them be eye-catching and specific.

Today’s title lets you know that we will be talking about child support. This is a very popular topic among potential clients of the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. And why not? Money is important. Your kids are important. Paying child support for children is important. The failure to receive or pay child support on time and in full is important. This all makes sense to me.

Many child support cases are settled in a place that is commonly referred to as child support court. Attorney General court, or as today's title indicates IV-D court. This is the court where your case will end up if you have gone through the Office of the Attorney General for your child support case. Usually, you will not have an attorney representing you at this stage, and your child's other parent will not either.

These courts are where you can either seek to hold your child's other parent accountable for the failure to pay child support or, you will be held accountable for the failure to pay the child support that you have been ordered to pay. Walking into one of these courtrooms before the docket is called is pretty jarring. It is usually very crowded, with mothers and fathers chatting amongst themselves. Fathers will often time be in work clothes, having been called away from the job to attend court.

What exactly is IV-D court?

As I mentioned a moment ago IV-D court is child support courts in Texas. The judge in your court will be able to make decisions on behalf of you, your child and your child’s other parent. Typically the decisions surround the naming of you as the legal father of your child as well as whether you should go to jail due to your failure to pay child support, medical support or health insurance premiums.

It is not the judge who initiates these cases. Either your child’s other parent or the Office of the Attorney General will file a lawsuit to determine the parentage of your child or to enforce a previously created child support order. If you are served with court papers, you can look at the titles of the documents to learn what you are being ordered to appear in court for.

Child support modifications can occur in IV-D court if you can show that the child support order in place needs to be either increased or decreased to take into consideration a change in your income. If it was only child support that you were ordered to pay previously, you can be provided with orders to pay medical support as well.

What should you bring with you to IV-D court?

This is a great question to ask well before your court date, so you don't spend the night before your hearing frantically searching through paperwork. Income taxes from the past couple years as well as a few months' worths of paystubs will be helpful to show a judge just how much you earn in income if there is any dispute about that amount.

Next, look for invoices from your health insurance provider in order to show a court that you have been paying the kids’ health insurance as instructed. You may have to contact the provider in the event that you do not have online access to statements. Payments of support made to the child’s mother are necessary as well. If you are making payments directly that is typically not advisable, but bring your proof of those payments, nonetheless.

A big issue that I have encountered of late is mothers leaving the children with their father for extended stretches of time. If this has happened to you then you should know that you are to receive credit for caring for the kids during periods of possession that you are not ordered to have them. You will be credited for these time periods and should not have to pay child support.

Finally, proof that you either receive veteran’s disability benefits or Social Security supplemental income benefits are helpful to bring to court as well. These sources of income are not part of what the state of Texas can tap for child support.

As the parent who requested the hearing, why are you listed as the respondent?

If you have contacted the Office of the Attorney General to initiate a hearing on your behalf, then you will be listed as the respondent (along with the other parent). The reason for this is that you are not officially the party who filed the lawsuit- the Attorney General is. You may be the one who started the ball rolling, but the OAG is the party who is filing the lawsuit and serving the parties- yourself included.

You are not represented by the Office of the Attorney General. They may be kind towards you and even sympathetic in some regards, but their interests are not yours and vice versa. Their goal is to get you into a hearing, have child support established or a judgment rendered as to past due support. Your goals are to pay your bills and support your child. As such, you can choose to represent yourself in this hearing or can move to hire an attorney to represent your interests.

Getting an attorney to represent you before an IV-D court appearance

If you are a parent (like a father) who has been served with a citation that orders you to appear in IV-D court for a child support enforcement hearing it is possible that in that hearing the judge can order you to spend some time in jail. This is called holding you in contempt. Contempt is when you have failed to follow a court order (for whatever reason) and the judge is now able to punish you as such. Jail time is limited to up to six months (180 days) maximum, but often times is shorter than that.

In this type of situation, where jail time is a potential punishment, the judge will inform you of the hearing that you have the right to an attorney's representation. It is likely that a continuance would be granted to allow you sufficient time to either hire an attorney or qualify for one to be appointed if it is shown that you cannot afford to hire a private attorney. It is strongly advised that if you can hire an attorney that you begin that search immediately. Judges have very busy dockets and will not be happy to find you at the next hearing without an attorney.

On the other hand, if you are the parent who is owed back child support you cannot be appointed an attorney under any circumstances. Remember that the other parent is entitled to an attorney only if it is shown that he or she cannot afford to pay for their own and jail time is a potential punishment. However, even if you cannot be appointed an attorney you should still talk to a one before you come to court. Better yet, you can hire an attorney to appear in IV-D court with you.

The main thing for you to understand is that while the Office of the Attorney General will have attorneys present in the courtroom, those lawyers do not represent you. Yes, those attorneys are attempting to secure a judgment against the other parent for the child support owed to you, but that is being out of service to the State of Texas- not to you. Their goal is to keep you from having to apply for assistance from the State of Texas. Help is not being provided to you out of any obligation to you or to your child.

Can you be put on probation for the failure to make timely payments of child support?

It is possible to be put on probation by a judge as punishment for the failure to pay child support, rather than to go to jail. However, you can be put on probation for a period not to exceed ten years. Paying the back child support to the owing parent sooner than ten years can cause your probation to end earlier than ten years. You will have a probation officer to report to regularly. Your paycheck will be docked to ensure that you pay current and back child support payments according to a plan laid out by the judge.

What happens in the event that you are not employed and have an IV- court date approaching?

The assumption in Texas is that if you do not have a job, then you can go out into the workforce and earn minimum wages without much effort. Whatever the minimum wage is at the time of your hearing that is the amount of child support that you will owe moving forward. In the event that another party is able to show that you have a job or are purposefully underemployed yourself, then those are circumstances that a judge can use to set the amount of child support at a higher number.

A lot of times I will be asked by fathers about what to do if their income has changed recently. Many fathers work jobs that are temporary or seasonal. Wages can fluctuate a great deal if you go from working a skilled trade to having to work in a retail or other seasonal job, for instance. In that case, you will need to show evidence through paystubs and other documents of that nature.

Can your child’s other parent withhold visitation of your child if you do not pay child support?

Your visitation with your child cannot be withheld from you due to the failure to pay child support. If this is what has gone on you need to tell that to the judge. If you do not have an attorney with you it can be intimidating to speak to a judge. However, if you are respectful then you will not have any problems. You should answer questions from the judge honestly and can tell him or her about the withheld visitation.

It is possible that a visitation schedule with your child will be provided to you within the child support order as well. Court ordered visitation is a nice thing for fathers because you are guaranteed of set periods of visitation that have nothing to do with the payment of child support. A lot of times mothers will withhold visitation from fathers due to their failure to pay child support on time.

More answers to your IV-D court questions will be posted in tomorrow’s blog post

If you are still looking for answers to commonly encountered questions regarding IV-D court please do not hesitate to return to our blog tomorrow. We will pick up right where we left off.

In the meantime, any questions or concerns you may have about this or any other subject in family law can be addressed to the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. A free of charge consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys is only a phone call away. It can be a great benefit for you to be able to speak to an experienced attorney and to receive feedback about your specific circumstances in a comfortable, pressure-free environment. Thank you for your time in joining us today here on our blog.

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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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