One of the most contentious issues in a divorce or child custody scenario is that of past-due child support, or child support arrears. If you are ordered to pay child support or have an order wherein you can receive child support payments then you understand the significance of this subject. Child support is not just another subject to discuss and debate during a family law case. Rather, it is an important part of ensuring that your children have the necessities of life. Additionally, the child support payments help the non-primary conservator stay connected to the support of their child despite not being with him or her a majority of the time. 

Child support can function smoothly as long as payments can be made on time and in full. Typically, an amount of child support will be ordered as the result of orders that stem from a child custody or divorce case. Often those orders begin in the temporary orders phase of a case. Paying child support can take some adjustment for a family. Therefore, courts use the temporary order segment of a family law case to help your family get acclimated to how child support is to be paid and received. Let’s spend some time discussing that subject in greater detail. 

How is child support calculated?

Child support typically is a calculation based on one parent’s net monthly income. Wages, salary, commissions, rental income, unemployment insurance payments, and other types of payment like these go towards the calculation of net monthly income. If you are going through a family law case and are concerned that you may be leaving something out as far as your Co parent’s income is concerned then you should address that with your attorney. Often through the discovery process, you can inquire about multiple streams of income that your Co-parent may be earning but unaware of.

Otherwise, the calculation of child support is fairly straightforward. A percentage of your Co-parent’s net monthly income beginning at 20% for one child before the court will be assessed. in typical situations, at most 50% of your Co parent’s net monthly income can be allotted for child support. Small adjustments are made on behalf of your Co-parent if he or she has other children for whom he or she bears financial responsibility. This means that a deduction off of the percentage of support that needs to be paid for your children will be made if he or she has to pay support or is the primary caregiver for other children.

What happens once child support is calculated?

Once child support has been calculated the next issue will be how the Child Support gets from your Co-parent to your bank account. Many parents assume that payments will be made directly from one parent to the other. This could be done by writing a check or simply paying in cash. However, as you are about to see, this is not the recommended method of paying child support and I would shy away from doing so were you a client of our office.

Rather, the only way to get official credit for making child support payments is if the payments flow through the office of the attorney general child support division. The Child Support division of the Texas Attorney general’s office is the state body that administers payments of child support. A wage withholding order will be signed off on by the judge from your child custody or divorce case that allows the attorney general’s office to receive money directly from your employer to pay your child support obligation each month.

If you are the parent who will be receiving the child support you and your attorney need to have an order prepared after your divorce or child custody case. Typically what the attorneys with our office will do is that we will submit a wage withholding order for a client on the same day that we are seeking to prove up or finalized the final order in a custody or divorce case. This way the judge can review all paperwork at the same time and we can learn if any additional pieces of information were needed before the case can be concluded.

The wage withholding order or specify the name of your spouse or Co parent’s employer as well as the specific amount of money that will need to be withheld each month for child support. As circumstances may change, it is up to you and your Co-parent to update this wage withholding order. If you have questions about this situation you should contact an attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We can talk to you about how the needs of your child may change over time in what you should do if you need to update a wage withholding order or even have one terminated after your child support paying the obligation.

The Child Support payments will flow through the attorney general’s child support division in will be paid directly to the bank account of your Co-parent. From there, he or she will be able to use the Child Support however he or she sees fit. I have had clients ask me before if there is any mechanism to trace how the money is spent or to hold your Co-parent accountable for misuse of the money. These folks are wondering if there’s any way to tell if the Co-parent is spending the money on shoes or a purse instead of formula or diapers for a baby.

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you want to look at the situation, there is no way to audit how the payments are spent. In that type of situation, you have to be able to trust to a large extent that your Co-parent is using the money in responsible ways. Regardless, if the money is spent irresponsibly your Co-parent would be unable to demand more money from you unless he or she can modify the Child Support order. Additionally, your Co-parent cannot withhold Visitation or possession of your children from you if you failed to make child support payments as agreed to or as ordered.

One thing that I will mention is that you do not get credit for direct payment of child support to a Co-parent. I realized that writing a cheque or giving cash to your Co-parent may seem easier than going through the trouble of abiding by a wage withholding order or website payments through an attorney general but you run the risk of not having these payments count. For example, theoretically, your Co-parent could allege to a family court judge that you failed to pay child support if the payments do not go through the attorney general’s office. This puts you in a position where you may have to defend yourself even if you made payments in full and on time just not through the attorney general’s office.

On the bright side, by making payments through the attorney general’s office your Co-parent would not be able to successfully argue that payments were missed or made partially. The reason being is that there is a barely straightforward way for you to check on payments by looking at the website for you and your Co-parent. In plain numbers, teen payments made in child support are laid out for everyone to see. From there, it is easy to determine what amounts of child support have been ordered and what amounts of child support have been received in full.

What could cause child support to be paid late or not paid at all?

Even though child support has a much more Noble intent attached to it, we can look at the payment of child support much like the payment of any other bill or obligation as far as finances are concerned. There are a host of reasons why child support could go unpaid or underpaid this month. The reality is that most Americans black an emergency fund or money set aside to pay for issues that come out of the blue. So, something as simple as a car repair could result in your child support payment coming late during the month. 

Your Co-parent could figure that without a car he or she could not get to work and pay child support anyway. Therefore, it is justified to make the payment for child support later and pay for the car now. These are realities that families face on an everyday basis. Especially after the year, we have just experienced as far as unexpected occurrences are concerned it is not out of the ordinary to see child support payments missed for a variety of reasons. 

Probably the most reason why child support payments could be missed is due to a job loss. For many parents to pay child support ability to do so must be budgeted each month along with their other responsibilities. If your Co-parent were to lose their job or have their hours cut back then this could impact their ability to pay child support. As I mentioned a moment ago, even their child support is nobler than the cable bill the same thing can happen with child support payments in the event of a job loss. Cuts to a person’s budget need to happen when they lose their job and child support may be a casualty of that reality.

The real question that we need to be asking ourselves is what can you do when an incident like this happens to your family? If your parent runs into some financial difficulties is there anything your family can do to prevent either running into extreme financial issues on a short-term basis because of the inability to pay? The second question would be what can your family do to avoid having to file a lawsuit to ensure proper payment of child support?

The most obvious solution to this problem that I can think of would be to make sure you have money in reserve if you have a reduction in pay, hours, or lose your job outright. Losing your job is not an excuse for not paying child support. While it is understandable that losing your job would mean having difficulty paying child support that in and of itself does not absolve you from paying child support. A trip to the courthouse to listen to enforcement cases on child support will cause you to learn that a person is responsible for paying child support regardless of what their finances are. If a court order says you have to pay child support then that is what you have to do.

Having a rainy day fund Cortana support is important. It is important to have a rainy day fund regardless of whether or not you pay child support but when there are significant consequences to failing to pay child support it is as good a reason as any to create a rainy day fund as anything else. Simply putting a few dollars away each month while you are employed will help ensure that in the event of a monthlong drop in the income you will have the money necessary to pay child support. If you do lose your job, it is best to be upfront in contact with both the attorney general and your Co-parent.

Communicating with your Co-parent about any problems you will have paying child support can potentially help you avoid a situation where an enforcement lawsuit is filed against you. For the most part, if you can keep your Co-parent in the loop about child support then he or she will be less likely to take immediate action to address a missed payment. However, if he or she is caught by surprise when you do not pay child support and you do not have a Co-parenting relationship then you may find that an enforcement lawsuit will be filed against you more readily.

How can you recover past-due child support?

If back child support begins to pile up there are several ways for you to be able to enforce The Child Support order to recover the money that is owed to you. For example, it is possible that child support lien notices can be given to banks where your Co-parent has an account. You and your attorney can work with the court to freeze a bank account to ensure proper payment.

You may also enforce your child support order by putting a lien on your Co-parent’s real estate or personal property. The significance of placing a lien on the property is that you would have an interest in that property that can be enforced if it is sold. It is even possible to seize personal property or real estate for sale if The Child Support arrears are large enough.

A surprising way that child support can be paid if it is owed would be by seizing federal tax refunds of your Co-parent. The IRS can check-in to see if the money in child support is owed and they must hold any refund to pay back child support. The attorney general may be able to assist you with this as would an experienced family law attorney.

Finally, your parent’s licenses: driver’s licenses, licenses to practice certain types of professions, hunting and fishing licenses as well as passport renewals can all be denied or withheld if child support is owed. Again, these are types of relief you would need to seek from the court in your enforcement case. The family court judge would assess the situation and make it a termination about what types of relief are possible and most readily fix the situation that you find yourself in.

Probably the most significant way to enforce a child support order we’re back child support is owed would be to have your Co-parent sent to jail for the failure to pay. This is a fairly extreme step that can be taken if a large amount of child support is owed and your Co-parent has displayed an unwillingness to pay that amount over time. Jail time can be ordered but deferred adjudication can be received instead of jail time to allow him or her to work and began to pay off the arrearage. 

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case. Thank you for your interest in our law practice. We invite you to join us again tomorrow as we post additional blogs that are relevant and relatable in connection with Texas family law.