Payment of child support is important for the health and well-being of the children of a divorced or separated couple. The child support enforcement process in Texas, however, may be complex.
A spouse can file a motion for enforcement of child support orders. The motion has to disclose whether the party is seeking application of the contempt of court powers, which allows the court to order imprisonment or fines and the other penalties being sought.
It should also contain the amount of court-ordered child support. If a party is seeking a contempt order, it must identify the part of the court support order that was violated, the amount owed for each day that the support order was violated and the amount of any support that was paid.
This motion has to be served personally upon the defending party with an order to appear at a court hearing at least 10 days before this hearing. The defending party may have a jury trial and a court-appointed attorney, based on financial need, if the requested punishment is imprisonment for over 180 days or a $500 fine.
A party defending these actions may utilize several defenses. First, the non-custodial parent can receive credit for times that the child resided with that parent beyond the court-ordered possession periods if that parent paid for the child’s needs. Responding parties can also try to prove that the child support record is wrong. And inability to pay is a third defense.
Courts have several remedies in addition to fines and imprisonment. A judge can impose strict community supervision instead of jail. It can order paycheck withholding from the parent’s paycheck or require periodic payments to discharge the judgment if the parent is self-employed. A lien may also be imposed upon personal or real property. Under a qualified domestic relations order, a court can order payments directly to the child or spouse from a special account. A court may also suspend a person’s driver’s license or order professional or occupational license suspension of a parent owing child support if the late payments equal the support owed for 90 days under a court order.
Resolution of these issues in these proceedings often depends on compliance with numerous procedures. Legal representation can help assure that a parent’s rights are protected and that children receive financial support for their needs.
Source: The Texas Young Lawyer’s Association, “What to Expect in Texas Family Law Court,” Accessed July 12, 2016