The State of Texas allows for two methods for you to pursue back due child support. The first is by contacting the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) who is in charge of collecting and distributing child support in Texas. While their office will not represent you in a potential court case, they will work to file a lawsuit, provide notice to your ex-spouse of the suit and then present evidence in a hearing that shows missed and/or incomplete payments. Many folks will choose to take this route because it is free. You do not have to pay for your own attorney nor do you pay the OAG to move forward with a case. The downsides are that your interests are not specifically represented in the case and that the OAG often takes longer to file and move forward with a hearing than you would like.
Our section option that we need to consider if your goal is to file an enforcement case for child support would be to hire a private attorney and to have the attorney file an enforcement lawsuit on your behalf. An attorney would likely prepare and file your case faster than the OAG and would almost certainly get a hearing date earlier than the OAG could or would. Also, the attorney represents you and your goals. The OAG represents the State of Texas, whose major obligation is not your getting paid child support but keeping your child off of public assistance programs like food stamps and Medicaid. The downside to hiring a private attorney to represent you would be that you have to pay the attorney to do so.
Today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC will discuss a child support enforcement case and how it can be used to help you ensure that your rights are protected and that your children will not do without because your child support has not been received on time or in the full and correct amount.
All parents have a duty to support their child
No matter if you are the parent with whom you child resides primary or are the parent who has visitation rights to your child, you have a duty to support him or her without exception. It is presumed that a child support order is in the best interests of your child. It is pretty straightforward to consider that by failing to pay child support in full and/or on time that your child will be presumed to have been harmed. The child support payments are not intended to act as payback to you as a parent, but rather exist solely as a means to support your child. There are no actions that you can take in order to cause the other parent’s responsibility to stop paying support to cease, absent a court order.
This means, practically speaking, that your ex-spouse must still pay you child support even if you are belligerent to him, hide the children from him or inflict other harm upon him. Of course he can obtain a court order that changes that responsibility, but for our purposes you should understand that court ordered child support will be in place until your child turns eighteen or graduates from high school.
With that said if you are not receiving the child support that you are ordered to receive the typical method of addressing this issue in Texas would be to file an enforcement lawsuit. In this lawsuit you are suing your ex-spouse for whatever child support is owed to you and has not been paid as well as for court costs and attorney’s fees in most cases.
What actually goes into a Motion for Enforcement?
Let’s discuss the actual motion that is filed in court and initiates the enforcement lawsuit. As opposed to a Petition for Divorce, a Motion for child support enforcement is a fairly intricate document that requires some time to put together. In the enforcement motion you are simply enough asking the court to force your ex-spouse to pay you the correct amount of child support to you based on the language contained in your Final Decree of Divorce.
The enforcement motion must identify that portion of the order that your ex-spouse has violated and that you are seeking an enforcement of. In the context of child support enforcement cases it would be the section regarding child support. Next, you would need to tell the judge exactly how your ex-spouse has failed to comply with the order. Has he paid you the ordered amounts of support but has done so late for the past six months? Has he paid on time but only half the actual amount of support? These are the questions you need to ask and then communicate to your attorney.
The second to last element of an enforcement lawsuit for child support would be to state whatever relief you are requesting from the court. If you are asking for asking for money, you need to ask for that. If you are asking for money and for your ex-spouse to serve time in jail (up to six months) then you need to ask that. If you are unclear about what you are asking for then a judge will not be able to grant any relief in your case. Last, your attorney will sign the motion and file the document in court.
How specific must your motion for enforcement be?
As I referenced earlier in today’s blog post, a motion for enforcement is not as general as a petition for divorce. A motion for enforcement must include the amount of money that your ex-spouse owes you in total child support, how much he has paid you to date and the remainder that he owes you after you subject the amount paid from the amount owed to date. This allows the judge to have a firm understanding of where things stand. He or she can then verify that amount with the OAG (who will need to be included as a party in your case).
In what situations can you file a motion for enforcement?
If there is either a temporary or final order in place from a court that orders your ex-spouse to pay child support then you may file an enforcement motion at any time. It is reasonable to provide your ex-spouse a written warning (in the form of a letter) telling him how much money is owed and asking for prompt payment in full. If he does not respond or otherwise indicates his unwillingness to do so it is reasonable to file a lawsuit for enforcement in my opinion.
What court should you file the enforcement motion in?
Your case will need to be filed in the same court that heard your initial child support or divorce case. The reason for this is pretty obvious- that court, at least in theory, has familiarity with your case and its issues. Or it at least has more familiarity than any other court in your county.
What happens if your ex-spouse lives out of state? Can a court enforcement an order against him?
In most situations the answer to this question is yes. Your judge can enforce child support order against your ex-spouse even if he lives in another state. The reason that this is the case is because the court can exercise personal jurisdiction over your ex-spouse by virtue of the fact that he has a relationship with the State. How can a court establish personal jurisdiction over your out of state ex-spouse? Come back to our blog tomorrow to find out how.
Questions about child support? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC are ready and willing to assist you and your family with any matter related to child support. We have a team of ten family law attorneys who are experienced in handling these cases on behalf of members of our community. For a free of charge consultation with one of those attorneys please do not hesitate to contact our office today.
If you want to know more about what you can do, CLICK the button below to get your FREE E-book: “16 Steps to Help You Plan & Prepare for Your Texas Divorce”
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.