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When does your duty to pay child support end in Texas?

The responsibility of a noncustodial parent to pay child support in Texas ends when the child in question turns eighteen or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later in time. This is nearly always what your court orders will say if you went before a judge without an attorney in Office of the Attorney General/IV Court in Harris County. If you and your child’s other parent had attorneys of your own, you may have a responsibility to pay support that goes beyond his or her 18thbirthday. You need to read through your court orders to find out for certain. 

Do you also have to pay medical support if you are already paying child support?

In most cases paying medical support and child support are obligations that you must undertake. It is assumed that if you pay child support that you will also pay for your child’s health insurance. There are a few different options, however. First, you could be ordered to provide health insurance if it is available to you at a reasonable cost. If it Is not and the custodial parent must pay for health insurance, you would pay cash medical support to her. Finally, if neither of you can provide health insurance the medical support would reimburse the state back for the services provided to your child. 

If you lose your job do you still have to pay your child support?

Incomes changes are a part of life, both in good and bad ways. You will find that your income will fluctuate throughout the years where you are ordered to pay child support. That is expected. Attorneys will advise their clients to learn to budget and save money for child support purposes so that in the event that you lose your job, your child support can still be paid.

If you do lose your job you should contact the Office of the Attorney General and the court where your child support order comes from as soon as you can. These steps alone will not reduce the amount that you owe but they are smart steps to follow through with. A new child support order will need to be created by the court. What you need to do, therefore, is to request a modification and have one granted to you. 

What needs to happen for you to qualify for a modification of your child support?

The Texas Family Code will tell you that a substantial change in circumstances needs to be shown in order to have a modification request granted. This significant change could come in your child’s life, your life or that of your child’s other parent. Specifically, if you are asking for your child support obligation to be decreased you would typically need to show that more than three years have passed since the last time you were in court. Courts do not want to change child support orders all that often, so three years is the typical length of time that it will take to modify child support. 

Unemployment happens and sometimes there is not much you can do about it. However, you can budget your money and save as much as you can so that you don’t run into issues with paying the support while you are looking for work. Remember- this is money that ultimately goes towards the benefit of your child so don’t look at this as a burden to avoid. Showing a court that you are looking for a job will likely be necessary if your modification case were to go to a judge. 

What happens to any past due support that is owed?

On some level, I can appreciate the argument or thought that if you have recently lost your job that you should be able to not only have your child support obligation reduced but to also have any back child support that you owe wiped clean. After all, you are already undergoing one hardship with losing your job- why add on another by increasing the amount of child support that you will have to pay in back child support when this episode concludes?

Even if you have a great reason as to why you cannot pay your child support (including back child support), you will not have any of the child support that you owe wiped clean in all likelihood. As I noted earlier in today’s blog post, you should definitely contact the court and the Office of the Attorney General if you lose your job and anticipate not being able to pay your child support obligation for a period of time. It does not pay for you to wait to do this. Contact these places immediately and let them know about your changed circumstances. By waiting you will not put yourself in a position to have the child support amounts that you already owe decreased any further. 

What happens if your child’s mother won’t let you see your child? Should you still pay support?

This is sort of an age-old question that I am asked from time to time. Say that you have been paying child support diligently, but your child’s mother has of late not allowed you to see your child. Pick any reason under the sun why a person may feel justified in withholding visitation. This makes you angry and leads you to believe that you shouldn’t have to pay child support if you don’t get the benefit of being able to spend time with your child. How would a court react to this argument, you may be asking yourself? 

You cannot refuse to pay child support to your child’s custodial parent just because he or she is interfering with your visitation periods. In order to deal with this situation head-on, you should address the problem with that parent. If he or she will not allow visitation to occur as intended, you should file an enforcement case and take them to court. A judge can assess the situation and assess punishments for their actions. 

Do not take the situation into your own hands and refuse to pay child support. If you do that, you will not only be harming your child, but you will also be falling behind in your child support payments. Think about it like your credit card. If you pay only a minimum payment for one month it becomes a lot easier for you to do so over a two-month period. That two-month period can stretch easily into three, or four, and so on. Do not put yourself in a position where you leave yourself susceptible to an enforcement action being filed against you. 

What can happen to you if you do not pay child support as ordered?

You can be assessed jail time for failing to pay child support. The term in jail cannot exceed six months. The basis for assessing jail time against you would be for your being in contempt of court. This basically means that you have failed to abide by an order of the court. A fine of $500 per violation in addition to attorney’s fees and court costs may be assessed against you as well. 

Since an enforcement action can lead to jail time you are entitled to having an attorney represent you in your hearing. If you cannot afford to hire an attorney, one can be appointed to you by the court. If you do not have any income, have an extremely low income and receive government assistance it is likely that you would qualify to have an attorney appointed for you by the court. 

What are other consequences are possible if you fail to pay your child support?

There are additional enforcement mechanisms your court can choose to implement in your case, other than sending you to jail. It does not matter if you live in another state- you cannot avoid paying child support in Texas. There are federal laws that all states have agreed to be a part of that allow courts in Texas to work with courts in the 49 other states to ensure that you will be held responsible for your failure to pay child support. 

If you as the noncustodial parent does not pay child support as you are ordered to, you are subject to other enforcement techniques that can cause a great deal of disruption in your life. 

First of all, your employer may be ordered to deduct any court-ordered child support from your paycheck through a wage withholding order. Quite honestly, this probably should have been a part of your case from the very beginning. While a wage withholding order may seem like an invasion of your privacy or an overstepping of bounds, it can ultimately save you a lot of problems. If the money is taken directly from your paycheck, it puts less pressure on you to make the payments on your own each month. You will have an accurate record of the payments you made, as well.

Another similar method of ensuring that your child support payments are made is by getting a hold of your income tax refund before it can be received by you. I have heard from clients and other people in the past who were anticipating a nice tax refund and were disappointed to learn that the refund would be going to child support, instead. 

The last method that I believe that you need to be aware of is that the court can have your licenses suspended. So, if you have a driver’s license, hunting or fishing license or your commercial driver’s license, any of these can be suspended in order to induce you into paying your child support. Let’s examine this a little further. 

Can your licenses be suspended for not paying child support?

If you are the noncustodial parent of a child who has fallen behind in paying child support then any license you were granted by the State of Texas can be suspended. It is not only the licenses that we discussed above that are subject to suspension. If you are a professional- an attorney, dentist or medical doctor- your license to practice within your profession can be affected by these suspensions as well. 

Here is how it will actually work: the Office of the Attorney General’s child support division will match up the cases it has on its docket with all of the various state agencies that administer licensing. When their system shows a match between owing child support and having a license issued by the State, you will be sent a letter in the mail that tells you that your particular license(s) can be suspended as a result of your owing child support. You will be provided with options to pay your arrearage and avoid having your licenses suspended. 

The best thing to do in order to avoid being in the crosshairs of child support courts or the Office of the Attorney General is to always have some cash in reserve in case you lose your job. Not only is having an emergency fund a smart thing to do overall, but it will help you to avoid falling behind in paying child support if you lose your income temporarily. 

Questions about paying child support? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about paying child support or what you can do to settle any amount that you currently owe, I recommend that you contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan today. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week here in our office. These consultations are a great opportunity for you to discuss with our attorneys the circumstances of your life as well as any other issues you may have. 

It is always an honor to be able to represent people in our community just like. We pride ourselves on your experience as a client and the results earned inside and outside of the courtroom. Thank you for your time and consideration. 

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