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Child Support Enforcement

Bedford Divorce Attorney :: Fort Worth Divorce Attorney :: Dallas Divorce Attorney :: QDRO Lawyer

enforcement lawyer bedford texasA court order for child support from a family court gives you the right to collect child support from the obligor (the parent responsible for paying child support) but unfortunately not all obligors pay the ordered child support. It can be frustrating to know that a court has ordered the child support but the obligor refuses to pay the child support while you have no choice but to provide the financial support for your children. The good news for you is that Texas family law provides you the power to enforce the court order for child support and obtain both past and current child support. A court order from a family court enforcing an existing child support obligation can be extremely effective in collecting child support. Let’s discuss how an enforcement action can help you collect child support and how divorce lawyer Adam Kielich and The Kielich Law Firm can help you in your enforcement action.

What is a child support enforcement action?

Under the Texas Family Code, an obligee (the parent receiving child support) is entitled to bring a child support enforcement against the obligor to enforce the child support obligation and pursue remedies to collect past due and current child support obligations. An enforcement proceeding for child support is typically brought as a contempt proceeding because contempt provides the greatest range of remedies for the obligee. A child support enforcement action can request and obtain remedies for a child support arrearage including a civil money judgment, fines and other penalties, additional income withholding orders, property liens, losses of state-issued licenses (including driver’s licenses and professional licenses), probation and even imprisonment. Often the threat of probation or jail time is sufficient to convince the obligor to find money that supposedly did not exist and get the support obligation current. In cases where the child support arrearage is significant the obligor rarely has enough money on hand to pay off the arrears and some combination of financial remedies are necessary to try to pay off the arrears and bring the child support obligation current.

The good news for you is that the Texas Family Code provides you the power to enforce the court order for child support and obtain both past and current child support. A court order from a family court enforcing an existing child support obligation can be extremely effective in collecting child support.

A child support enforcement action can be a very effective at creating a meaningful solution to a child support arrearage even if the unpaid child support is only a month or two of support payments. There are defenses available to obligors in child support enforcement proceedings and judges have a certain amount of leeway in the remedies ordered but most judges in Tarrant County, Dallas County and surrounding counties are very stern in enforcing child support orders and ordering whatever remedies are necessary. Often it is a good idea to bring an enforcement action when the obligor drops a month or two behind on child support payments without a good reason for the lack of payment because it is easy for the obligor to develop a bad habit of not paying support and accruing a large arrearage.

How can I bring a child support enforcement?

A child support enforcement action can be brought in two different ways: through a public agency or a private action. An obligee can request an appropriate child support agency bring the enforcement on their behalf or the obligee can file for enforcement through the normal family courts process like any other private litigation. Let’s talk a little about each option and why you might want to choose one over the other.

A child support enforcement can be brought by the appropriate government agency. Often this is the Office of the Attorney General’s Child Support Division (OAG) but some counties have domestic relations offices that can also bring an enforcement action on behalf of an obligee. The upside to requesting a public agency represent you in an enforcement action is that the agency will not charge you anything for the attorney or filing suit. The OAG has its own courts called IV-D courts that it brings its enforcement actions. The OAG can request the same remedies as a private attorney and the judges in IV-D courts are very kind to the OAG attorney’s so once you get in front of a judge in an OAG proceeding you will usually get some type of worthwhile relief. The problem, the major problem, is that the OAG is understaffed and overloaded with cases. Many enforcement actions languish for a year or more waiting to see a judge even with arrearages in the tens of thousands of dollars. You may not have the money to support your children while you wait to get in front of a judge, let alone wait to actually get paid the arrearage. There are plenty of horror stories out there about obligees waiting all this time for relief only to have the OAG drop the ball or obtain an enforcement order with something less than what the obligee should receive.

It is rarely the better option to look to the OAG for help with an enforcement. Most people do not want to wait a year to see the judge.

The other option is to bring a private action through the normal family courts. The hearings on a private enforcement action are usually scheduled by the court thirty days out so the obligee can receive a favorable result much quicker. A district court or family court can order the full range of remedies available in a child support enforcement and the judges are typically willing to order whatever is necessary to give the obligee the best chance of recovering the unpaid child support. This path is not without its own set of issues to deal with. The obligee must comply with the procedural rules under both the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure and the Texas Family Code, especially when the enforcement is brought as a contempt proceeding. Failure to satisfy the procedural requirements can cut off certain remedies. The obligee must also understand the different remedies and how combinations of remedies can affect the ability to recover the unpaid child support. The obligee will also have to pay filing fees and service fees. If the obligee hires an attorney the attorney will need to be paid as well.

It is rarely the better option to look to the OAG for help with an enforcement. Most people do not want to wait a year to see the judge. A private action is usually the better approach although the obligee should only do so with the help of a private attorney. Attempting a procedure-heavy proceeding like an enforcement without understanding the process and procedures can risk as little as losing effective remedies to at worst risking losing the ability to recover the arrearage. It makes very little sense to opt for a private action without an attorney. The Texas Family Code allows an obligee to recover attorney’s fees and court costs through an enforcement proceeding very similar to the unpaid child support. So although you may need to spend some money up front to get through the courthouse doors, you likely can recover those expenses in the end.

Should I pursue a child support enforcement?

Generally you should pursue a child support enforcement as soon as child support begins to go unpaid. An obligor who is intentionally refusing to pay child support can develop the bad idea that nothing will happen if child support is not paid and then make no effort to pay into the future. The greater the arrearage grows the harder it will be to collect if the obligor does not have financial assets or the income to quickly pay it off. It is typically better to train the obligor to uphold his or her obligations by bringing the obligor to court under an enforcement proceeding as soon as it is reasonable to do so.

Sometimes all it takes to resolve a small arrearage is to work out an arrangement with the obligor without bringing the obligor into court. People do change jobs or lose jobs and unless a new withholding order is issued it is very easy for the obligor to miss some payments and not know that the obligor needs to send payments directly to the OAG to maintain the support obligation. Not every missed child support payment is an intentional act to avoid a child support obligation. However, if more than a couple months have gone by it is probably not a situation that is going to be resolved without at least hiring an attorney to write a demand letter and scare the obligor into catching up.

If you already have a large arrearage of thousands of dollars that needs to be paid then you likely need to file an enforcement and file sooner rather than later. I know some people have the idea that pursuing unpaid child support somehow excuses the absence of a deadbeat parent. Payment of a court ordered support obligation has no bearing on whether a person is a bad parent. The obligor can pay all the child support ordered and still be a terrible parent. I can understand the pride in raising a child by yourself without the help of a bad parent and it is great if you can afford to support yourself and your children by yourself. However, that child support could be set aside into a great head start into adulthood for your children by helping to pay for college, medical care, a down payment on a house and so on.

How can The Kielich Law Firm help me with my child support enforcement?

As an attorney with experience dealing with both family law issues and civil litigation, a considerable amount of my practice involves pursuing judgments against businesses and individuals who owe my clients money. I can bring the same skills and experience I use to pursue claims against large multinational corporations to your child support enforcement proceedings. I recognize that a child support enforcement is not just about getting the judgment against the obligor, it’s also about getting paid the due amount from the obligor. I will work with you to develop the best course of action to get you paid what you are owed. Call or email my office to schedule a consultation so I can start helping you.

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