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Options When a Parent Has Not Paid Child Support

Posted on February 1, 2021 by Chris Kirker

In this post, we examine some of the available enforcement methods for when a parent has failed to make their child support payments. 

Texas courts often go to great lengths to ensure that child support orders are fair for all parties involved. However, for a number of reasons, some obligors either refuse to or are unable to pay their child support payments when they come due. In those cases, Texas law has provided obligee parents a number of enforcement mechanisms to collect past-due child support payments. Please read below for a brief overview of each one. 

Mandatory Earnings Withholding

The Texas Family Code provides mandatory withholding of an obligor’s earnings as a default enforcement mechanism in nearly all child support orders. This is done through an Income Withholding Order. This enforcement method also applies to any severance pay available to the obligor if he or she leaves their current employment, with enforcement being limited to a maximum of 50% of an obligor’s “disposable earnings.” This mandatory withholding option is available only through a final child support order. Consequently, temporary orders for child support may not be enforced through mandatory withholdings. 

Suspension and Denied Renewal of License(s)

If an obligor is at least three months in arrears, the court may suspend his or her licenses to compel payment. Licenses subject to suspension include driver’s licenses, hunting and fishing licenses, and even professional licenses, such as a cosmetology, law, or medical license. Similarly, a court may prohibit an obligor’s license from being renewed until all arrearages have been satisfied. As many obligor’s continued income and employment is dependent on maintaining current licensure, this form of enforcement is often quite effective. 

Prohibition of State Loans and Grants

If an obligor is delinquent by at least 30 days, the court may prohibit his or her business from receiving grants or loans offered by the state government. This method can apply to any business in which the obligor is at least a 25% owner. 

Money Judgment

To streamline the collection of past-due child support, Texas law provides that all arrears automatically become final judgments for the past-due amount plus attorney’s fees, court costs, and 6% interest. This means that one need not seek a separate judgment each time an obligor fails to uphold his or her child support obligations. Such judgments may be enforced by any means available to other judgments, such as levy,where the Sheriff confiscates the obligor’s property and auctions it on the steps of the county courthouse, with the proceeds going to satisfy the judgment. 

Child Support Lien

Texas law also provides a specific lien avenue for child support payments in arrears. Such liens operate as a matter of law and, therefore, do not require affirmative action by the obligee parent. Similar to how a lien on a financed vehicle works, a child support lien will automatically attach to the obligor’s non-exempt real estate and personal property. Generally, this means that before any of the obligor’s property can be sold, the child support lien must be be paid off before the sale can occur.

Contempt

As a last resort, a court may use contempt to jail a past-due obligor. However, the extreme nature of contempt means that most courts rarely employ this enforcement method unless absolutely necessary. 

If you would like to learn more about collecting past-due child support or how to protect your property from the above-mentioned mechanisms, please contact us to speak with one of our experienced lawyers today.

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