Separating from a spouse or partner and losing full-time possession and custody of one’s children does not remove one’s obligation to support them. Child support is a key part of making sure the custodial parent is able to provide for their children when they lose their spouse’s income after the divorce. Along with the final decree of divorce, the court will sign a wage withholding order to be sent to the non-custodial parent’s employer. Typically, these wages are withheld from the non-custodial parent’s income, sent to the Texas Attorney General’s State Disbursement Unit, then disbursed to the custodial parent.
If the non-custodial parent is self-employed, retired, or receives cash wages, he or she will be responsible for remitting child support payments to the Texas Child Support Disbursement Unit themselves. Sometimes, the non-custodial parent uses the lack of a paycheck as an excuse to avoid paying child support. When a parent decides not to pay child support, it’s important to know what steps to take, and what not to do as well.
Talk it Out
One of the first things that should be done—legal circumstances permitting—is to simply talk about it. There are many reasons why a non-custodial parent might not be fulfilling their child support obligations, such as:
- A loss of employment can clearly create a payment issue
- Payment amount is causing a financial hardship, either being set too high or due to changes in circumstances
- Other reasons, such as anger or resentment over the divorce or visitation schedule may be the motivation to get even or punish the other parent
In instances where the non-custodial parent is not able to keep up with payments, it may be beneficial to agree for that parent to get the child support payments reduced. After all, something is better than nothing. If a child support payment modification is required, then you will need a divorce-decree modification.
Don’t Take the Law into Your Hands
Some parents believe that if the non-custodial parent won’t pay child support, they should have no right to see their children. Whether the reasoning behind this is sound or not is irrelevant. Withholding visitation seldom resolves child support issues, may make them worse, and can result in further legal complications. Whether or not a parent is fulfilling their child support obligations, it’s not fair to the child to have contact with that parent withheld due to missed child support payments. The typical order in Texas regarding the parent-child relationship carries warnings that denying visitation as a means of collecting child support is not justified, just as withholding child support to enforce visitation also would not be acceptable means of settling the dispute.
Seek Legal Assistance
The Texas Office of the Attorney General is charged with enforcing child support orders. To begin the enforcement process, the custodial parent must report it to the court through the process of filing a contempt or enforcement action. The Office of the Attorney General of Texas does not represent either parent but is charged with ensuring that the children in Texas are supported by their parents. Legal representation in the ensuing hearings is vital to enforcing these agreements, which is where child support attorneys such as Mary Ann Beaty come in. For more assistance with a parent who is not paying child support, or any other matter related to child custody or visitation, contact board-certified family law attorney Mary Ann Beaty.