How Can I Enforce Child Support?
Your child has a right to be emotionally and financially supported by both parents, and child support is a lifeline for many families. It ensures that a child’s basic needs can be met, including shelter, food, toys, education, and more.
A court-ordered child support agreement is a legal obligation, and payments should not be missed for any reason. If your ex-spouse has repeatedly missed payments, then you have the right to take legal action against them.
If your ex-spouse has missed child support payments, then you should seek advice from a family law attorney. Holding your ex-spouse accountable for their actions can be a challenge, but child support payments don’t just disappear; you are retroactively owed all missed payments, often with interest on-top.
It is essential that you do not take matters into your own hands by refusing visitation, as you would also be guilty of contempt in the eyes of the law. Instead, seek legal assistance from an attorney with experience enforcing child support orders.
What is Child Support and What Can it be Used For in Texas?
In Texas, parents usually share custody of their children after separation, as it is considered to be in the best interest of the child for both parents to remain involved in their life. However, one parent will usually become the custodial parent and will care for the child for the majority of the time in their primary residence, while the other parent will become the non-custodial parent and will be granted visitation rights.
Usually, the non-custodial parent pays child support to the other in order to contribute to the upbringing of the child. Child support is enacted to ensure that both parents are equally contributing financially to the costs of raising a child, regardless of separation.
Texas law does not specify what is covered by child support; it can be used for anything that contributes to the upbringing of the child, including food, shelter, education, clothing, and toys.
Parents are also required to ensure that a child has access to medical care; If the non-custodial parent can reasonably provide medical insurance for the child, then this may be included in a child support order.
What To Do If Your Ex-Spouse Fails to Pay Child Support
A child support order is legally binding. Despite this, we always recommend that people try to use mediation to resolve their differences before legal action. Said legal action can cause strain on relationships which can be stressful for everyone involved.
Therefore, the best first step is usually speaking to your ex-spouse unless that puts you or your child in danger; if so, then you should skip this for safety. If you are in this situation, then your local child support services may be able to help, or you can seek help from a family law attorney to help enforce child support orders.
If they have a valid reason for missing child support payments, such as crashing their car or losing their job, then you could try to come to an agreement while they get back on their feet. It is often the case that they pay you a smaller amount and make up for it when they are in a better position.
On the other hand, if they refuse to negotiate or they have no good reason not to pay child support, then your next step is to explore legal action.
Unpaid Child Support Doesn’t Disappear
Missed child support payments don’t disappear; they continue to accumulate and are subject to interest. Even if your ex-spouse is successful in securing a modification where the court agrees to reduce the payments, this will not affect what they already owe you. There is no statute of limitations on child support payments, so what they owe never disappears.
Consequences of Not Paying Child Support in Texas
Missing child support payments is a criminal offense. When you contact Skillern Firm, we can assist in seeking help from the court in order to hold the payee accountable. Some potential penalties include:
- Fines of up to $500 for each missed payment.
- Deductions from their paychecks or other income sources.
- File liens against their assets.
- An order to pay your legal fees.
- Professional license suspension, including their drivers’ license.
- A jail sentence of up to six months for contempt of court.
How to Modify Child Support Orders
If your ex-spouse doesn’t take responsibility, it can be incredibly frustrating to have to find the money to meet your child’s needs alone. However, sometimes events occur which are out of their control, and when payments become unmanageable, it is necessary to apply for a modification.
In accordance with the Texas Family Code, grounds for modification of child support include:
- A substantial or material change in circumstances; Examples include: illness, job loss, changes in employment, increased expenses for other dependents, changes to the child’s living arrangements, and changing needs of the child.
- It has been three years since the existing order was issued, and the amount that would be awarded under up-to-date guidelines differs by either 20% or $100.
One parent can apply for a modification, or parents can apply jointly. When you contact Skillern Firm, we can help you explore your options and advise you on your next steps.
Agreed Vs. Contested Modification
When both parents agree to a child support modification, they can file a motion for modification jointly with the court. However, it may still be helpful to seek professional advice from an attorney so that they can ensure that you have followed the proper legal processes and have the evidence required to secure a modification.
If you and your ex-spouse cannot agree, then you will need to file for a contested modification, which is more difficult. The court will expect you to have at least tried to come to an agreement through mediation before filing for a contested modification.
If one spouse applies for a modification, the other party will be served modification papers which they must respond to within 20 days. If they fail to do so, then the Judge is likely to approve the modification by default.
If you are pursuing a contested modification, or if your ex-spouse is seeking a modification and you do not believe that they should, then you should seek guidance from a child support attorney as soon as possible in order to preserve your legal reights.
What Skillern Firm Can Do For You
It is important that your child is financially supported by both of their parents. If your ex-spouse has missed payments, then you should hold them accountable for their actions.
Not only are missed child su[pport payments incredibly frustrating for you when you are trying to meet all of your child’s needs, but they also negatively impact children who end up missing out on all the support they deserve.
At Skillern Firm, we always prioritize the needs of children in every family law case; We know how to keep things amicable wherever possible and how to act when a firmer approach is necessary.
Protecting the relationship between you and your ex-spouse should be an important aspect of your case. However, if a court case is necessary to secure what you deserve, then we will always be prepared to litigate on your behalf.
How Can I Enforce Child Support? FAQs
Q: Can I Refuse Visitation Because of Missed Child Support Payments in Texas?
A: As frustrating as missed child support payments are, you should not deny visitation to punish them. Visitation and child support are separate issues, and the court will not look favorably on you if you refuse visitation. It could result in you being held responsible for contempt of a court order. The best thing you can do to secure lost payments and seek justice is to contact Skillern Firm today.
Q: How can a lawyer help me recover child support?
A: A lawyer can assess your options and inform you about your rights and responsibilities. They may be able to help you and your ex-spouse come to an agreement, or they will help you file contempt proceedings if the paying parent refuses to pay the child support as ordered.
Q: What is medical support in Texas?
A: In Texas, parents must provide medical and dental support if their divorce or child support case begins before September 1st, 2018. If it is available at a reasonable cost, then the parent who pays child support should also provide medical coverage for the child.
It is considered a reasonable cost if it is no more than 9% of the payer’s annual income for medical insurance and no more than 1.5% for dental support.
Q: What if my ex-spouse no longer lives in Texas?
A: If your ex-spouse has moved away from the state of Texas, then the Texas Child Support Division could seek help from other states’ child support enforcement agencies to help you secure what you deserve; An attorney can help advise you on your next steps.
Q: How much do you have to be behind in child support to go to jail in Texas?
A: If parents fail to resolve child support disputes and the paying parent continues to miss child support payments which equal more than $5000, then a jail sentence is possible.
Contact Skillern Firm
At Skillern Firm, our narrow focus on family law in Texas means that all of our time is dedicated to people like you. We have a proven track record of success and are happy to share victories with you from previous clients who were in similar situations to your case.
We take a highly personalized approach to the attorney-client relationship. We take the time to understand your situation, educate you on your rights, and offer advice tailored to your needs.
Utilizing over 50 years of combined experience, we can handle even the most complex family law cases with the care and dedication they deserve.
Call our law firm today at 936-213-8479.