Child support problems can be extremely difficult. In some cases, child support is genial, and the parties are willing to pay child support even without court intervention. However, many cases are much worse, and trying to get the child support you deserve can be a chore.
If you are not receiving the child support you are supposed to receive under a court order, do not take steps to try and force payment yourself. The court has processes in place that you can use to file for penalties (such as interest on back payments) and enforcement (such as wage garnishment). If you need help getting the child support you are supposed to receive, call a lawyer for help.
If you are facing issues with receiving child support, talk to an attorney today. There are steps you can take to get the payments you need, and the Dallas child support lawyers at The Queenan Law Firm can help. Contact us today at (817) 476-1797 for a free case review.
What to Do When You Don’t Receive Child Support in Texas
Sometimes, problems with child support may just be minor mistakes. In some cases, sending the other parent a letter or calling them might be enough to remind them. If you are on good terms with the other parent, contacting them to remind them may be all it takes. However, in most cases, you should avoid contacting them directly without an attorney. Your Houston child support lawyer might have more success contacting them or using their official letterhead to get the message across that you need your payments on-time and in their full amount.
Hire a Lawyer
If the support is seriously behind, you should consider going to a lawyer first. When child support is seriously delayed, it is likely that the payor is attempting to avoid payment or protesting the payments by refusing to pay.
Sometimes official legal action is enough to scare the payor back into paying. A call or letter from an attorney might be enough to scare the non-paying parent into making the payments. If they learn that they are at risk of facing additional court proceedings and potential enforcement measures, the non-paying parent might stop fighting it and begin making the payments they are supposed to make. This can be the cheapest and quickest option, and it is certainly the first thing our attorneys will usually attempt in non-payment cases. If that doesn’t work, you might need to take your case back to court.
File for Enforcement Measures
A court order to pay child support has force behind it. If the payor refuses to send you the money they have been ordered to pay you, they could be in violation of that court order. The court has a number of penalties and enforcement mechanisms it can use to get you the payments you need.
These measures are discussed in greater detail below, but they primarily involve wage garnishment and potential penalties that make it harder for a delinquent payor to get services from the government while your child support is outstanding. Talk to an attorney about what the court can do to help.
Don’t Resort to Self-Help
As with nearly every family law issue, you should not resort to self-help. In some cases, calling the payor might be okay, but in contentious issues or bitter custody battles, it is better to let your Irving child custody lawyer handle it.
In any case, you should not resort to more extreme measures to get the money. For instance, calling the payor’s bank, employer, or family member and trying to get the money from them would be problematic. These kinds of actions could be construed as harassment, and they might lead to criminal charges against you. Moreover, acting out – even when you are ultimately justified in doing so – could be seen by the court as unfit behavior for a parent. This could ultimately hurt you if the other parent responds to your child support claims by trying to take custody away.
It is also important to remember that two wrongs don’t make a right. If you aren’t receiving child support, that does not give you the right to ignore child custody orders. If you are supposed to deliver the children to the other parent’s custody, you cannot keep the kids as a threat until the child support is paid without getting permission from the court. Doing so could put you in violation of a court order as well.
This could potentially even result in kidnapping charges, as most kidnapping cases are in fact charged against parents who keep custody beyond their limits. This, once again, could also hurt you if the other parent responds to your child support claims by trying to take custody. A parent who is uncooperative with the physical possession schedule could be seen in court as “worse” than a parent who merely missed a few payments. Instead, take your case to court and rely upon the official mechanisms the court has in place.
Court Enforcement for Child Support Orders in Texas
The court has the power to enforce its orders in many ways. There are tools such as contempt proceedings that can help ensure someone does what the court orders them to do, but there are also remedies more specific to child support cases.
If someone fails to pay their Texas child support payments for multiple children or one child, they may find themselves in violation of the court’s order. That means that the injured party can take them back to court to explain to the judge that they aren’t following the order. The judge can issue various penalties to either ensure compliance or punish the non-payor:
Civil and Criminal Contempt
In some cases, the judge might go so far as to lock someone up in jail for failing to comply with a court order. This is especially likely if the judge finds that the money is there and the payor is simply refusing to follow the order. Judges do not like to have their orders outright ignored, and they often do not take kindly to these kinds of direct violations of their authority. It is even seen as insulting by many judges, who might not hesitate to take extreme measures.
The practice of jailing someone until they comply with a court order is known as “civil contempt.” It is usually said that with civil contempt, the person in jail has the keys to their own release because they can always just pay the money or comply with the court order and they will be released.
With “criminal contempt,” the court orders a fine or puts the person in jail for failing to comply. Unlike with civil contempt, where the goal is just to get the person to comply, the goal with criminal contempt is to punish them. Even if they pay what they owe, they still have to serve the jail sentence or pay the fine (unless the judge happens to change their mind and withdraw the contempt order).
Contempt and jailing someone for failing to pay might not make sense in every case. If the payor does not actually have the money ready to go, it is unlikely that putting them in jail would make them any more able to pay. Especially if they need to go to work to get the money, jail wouldn’t make sense and probably would not be an option.
Another more common method of making sure that payment gets sent to the recipient is to garnish the payments from the payor’s wages. To garnish wages, the court orders that a portion of the payor’s paycheck or bank deposits be seized and immediately sent to the recipient to help cover the expected costs. The court can also go after bank accounts, property, and other things to help cover the costs if the payor refuses to send the checks themselves.
In Texas, wage garnishment is quite limited. Under Article 16, Section 28 of the Texas Constitution, child support and spousal maintenance are the only reasons that wages can be garnished.
Typically, child support payments in Texas are calculated as a percentage of the payor’s wages after taxes and necessary expenses (known as “disposable” income/earnings). Wage garnishment is also limited to a certain percentage of disposable income. Under Tex. Fam. Code § 158.009, courts can garnish up to 50% of disposable income. The guidelines for child support often have a lower percentage of disposable income for child support, such as 30% for 3 children. This means that the court can usually garnish the percentage of income ordered under the child support order plus any additional income that needs to be garnished in order to satisfy back payments and interest. Garnishment can also be used to cover the recipient’s legal fees.
Wage garnishment is not always possible. Before a court can order wage garnishment, payments must be more than a month behind (or in an amount more than a month’s worth of payments), or there must be some other violation of the child support order. An example of another child support order violation could be something like canceling a child’s health insurance that was ordered to be paid under the child support order. Courts might also be hesitant to use garnishment in cases where the payor has a current spouse and other children in their own household to support.
There are additional penalties that can help pressure someone into paying their child support. Even if these penalties might not be specifically ordered as a penalty for non-payment, these punishments put additional pressure on people who are in non-payment to make the payments and end these penalties against them. Most additional penalties involve denying government services and privileges to people who refuse to pay child support to pressure them to pay.
At a federal level, the U.S. government may deny passports to people who won’t pay child support. This can make it hard to travel internationally and interstate. Although the deadline keeps getting pushed back, once REAL ID laws go into effect, Texas travelers seeking to fly to another state will need a passport or a REAL-ID-compliant ID card to travel. This kind of penalty could stop them from getting the necessary ID papers.
Texas may also refuse to renew a driver’s license or vehicle registration. This could make it harder for someone who refuses to pay child support to go about their day or get to work. Further non-compliance could end up being too difficult to keep up with, and the payor will have no choice but to make their payments and clear any holds at the DMV. Typically, these restrictions come in at 3 months of non-payment before blocking driver’s license renewals and 6 months of non-payment before blocking registration renewals. These pressures help convince a non-payor to follow the order and make the payments.
Arlington, TX Child Support Attorneys Offering Free Case Reviews
If you are having trouble receiving your child support, it can be stressful. In many cases, taking the matter into your own hands will only make things worse, and you should hire an experienced child support lawyer instead. For a free review of your child support case, talk to an Arlington, TX family law attorney at The Queenan Law Firm today. Our number is (817) 476-1797.