With inflation running rampant and wages not keeping up, it can be difficult to keep yourself afloat. If you are a non-custodial parent with a court order to pay child support, you may be wondering how visitation rights are affected if you fail to make a court-ordered payment or can only afford to make a partial payment. Keep reading to learn from a divorce lawyer about your father’s rights.
A Divorce Lawyer Answers Father’s Rights Questions: What Happens to Visitation Rights If You Can’t Pay Child Support?
In the state of Texas, regarding visitation, fathers’ rights and child support are two completely distinct issues. Put another way, your right to visit your child cannot be taken away if you do not pay your ex-spouse to support your child. On the other side, you are still legally required to financially support your child by paying your ex-spouse monthly even if you don’t visit your child.
What Are the Consequences of Failing to Make My Court-Ordered Monthly Payments?
If you fail to make your court-ordered monthly payments, your right to visit your child will not be taken away from you, but there will be consequences. For example, according to the Attorney General of Texas, the Office of the Attorney General can take several steps to enforce the court order. Here are some examples:
- Credit reporting
- License suspension
- Court action
- Passport denial
Reporting to the Credit Bureaus
Per state law, the Office of the Attorney general will report how much child support is owed to all three major credit bureaus. If you can’t afford to make your court-ordered payments, communicate clearly and as soon as possible.
License suspension is not a guaranteed consequence of failing to make your court-ordered payments every month. However, you should be aware that the OAG works with over five dozen agencies, and any or all of your licenses can be stripped from you if you fail to pay. For instance, you may lose your ability to:
- Practice your profession
Court action is another common consequence of failing to make your monthly payments. In the case of civil contempt, you may be sentenced to a number of days in jail, receive a fine, or be fined and have to go to jail. It is up to the Family Court judge how much you are fined, but you may be fined up to $500 per nonpayment. Additionally, you may be required to pay your ex-spouse’s attorney fees and court costs.
In the case of criminal contempt, you will receive a jail sentence, and there is a good chance that you will spend six months in jail. When your jail time is over, you still must make your payments in full.
The OAG also has the right to deny a non-custodial parent a passport for failure to make court-ordered monthly payments. If you already have a passport, the Office of the Attorney General can prevent the renewal of your passport when it expires.
What If I Lose My Job?
If you lose your job, you should notify the Office of the Attorney General right away. You should also reach out to the local courthouse that ordered you to support your child financially. The court clerk will advise you that you must get a new support order. Note, you can also petition for a new support order if you can no longer afford your monthly payments as the order currently stands.
It is of the utmost importance that you inform the OAG and court of any decreases in your income as soon as possible. If you put off making your payments, you will not be entitled to a reduced financial support obligation retroactively. Also, there is a chance that you will face retribution for your failure to pay, including fines, jail time, liens filed against assets, and wage garnishment.
How Is My Monthly Payment Calculated?
In the state of Texas, calculating monthly payments is simple. You will be ordered to pay one-fifth of your net income if you are supporting one child. If you are supporting two children, you must pay one-quarter of your net income. You will be required to pay 30% of your net income every month if you are supporting three children.
If you are required to support four children, you will need to pay 35% of your net income every month. Finally, you must pay two-fifths of your net income if you have to support five or more children.
What Is the Best Way to Make Support Payments?
There are six ways you can make support payments, including online with a debit or credit card. However, the best way to make your support payments is to have your employer take the money out of your paycheck and send it, along with your case number, to the SDU.
What Fathers Rights Do I Have?
If it is in the best interest of the child, both parents will share parental rights and duties. The Family Court judge will make a determination during your divorce proceedings regarding whether it is in the best interest of the child for periods of possession (visitation) to occur when conservatorship (custody) has not been granted. In Texas, you can expect these visitation rights if you and your ex-spouse live within 100 miles of each other:
- 30 days over summer break
- Holidays (like Easter) every other year
- Every Thursday evening
- Every odd-numbered weekend each month
What if I Live Over 100 Miles Away From My Ex-Spouse?
If you live over 100 miles away from your ex-spouse, the judge will probably rule that you and your ex-spouse will alternate years of having your child on holidays. In most cases, there will be no Thursday visitations, but you will probably be able to have your child every spring break and for six weeks over summer break. Also, depending on your schedule and your ex-spouse’s schedule, weekend visitation may only occur once per month.
Note, it is very important that you appear in court when visitation is being discussed. If your child is under the age of three, the judge may rule that it is in the best interest of the child that your visitations be limited at first and progressively lengthen as your child gets older. If you want to spend as much time as possible with your child despite being a non-custodial parent, a divorce lawyer can help you argue your case in court.
How Does a Judge Determine What Is in the Best Interest of My Child?
Among the factors that the Family Court judge considers when determining what is in the best interest of your child are:
- What plans you have for your child
- How stable your home is vs your ex-spouse’s home
- What your child wants
- How well you can raise your child
- Your child’s emotional needs
- Your child’s physical needs
The state of Texas will not take away your right to visit your child if you fail to support your child financially. However, there may be a number of consequences. If you feel that your monthly payments are too high, a divorce lawyer can help you. Contact us today at Skillern Firm to schedule a consultation and learn more about how we can help you.