Enforce Child Support

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Parents are required to support children until they turn 18 or graduate from a high school whichever occurs last.  If you have a court order for support and you are not getting paid, then Texas child support may be enforced by:

  • Wage withholding order up to 50% of the wages earned
  • Child support judgment liens
  • Notice of child support lien
  • Levy on financial institutions
  • License suspension proceedings of driving, professional, hunting and fishing license.
  • Contempt proceedings which include jail time
  • Passport denial
  • Credit bureau reporting
  • Qualified domestic relations order (QDRO)

Wage withholding orders

An administrative writ of withholding for delinquent child support does not seek to impose a legal liability on the obligor to support his/her children. Instead, it is one of the several methods the Family Code provides as a remedy to secure performance of a previously adjudicated liability.  The Family Code allows an administrative remedy to collect child support when an obligor’s child support is at least one month delinquent. The Notice of Application for Judicial Writ of Withholding (NOA) may be filed by a private attorney representing the obligee.  The NOA must state that withholding from the obligor’s employer will occur if the obligor does not object to the NOA within 10 days of receipt. The NOA sets out the amount of arrearages owed, including interest and the amount that will be deducted monthly from the obligor’s wages (in addition to current support and medical support owed, if any) to repay the arrearages. The NOA must be verified.

Delivery and Response. The NOA is delivered to the obligor usually by mail.  The obligor has ten days to file a verified motion for stay. The sole ground to contest a NOA is (1) the arrearages are wrong; or (2) the obligor listed is the wrong party.  If the obligor does not file a timely motion for stay (which requests a hearing on the applicability of the notice), the obligee has the right to request the district clerk to issue a judicial writ of income withholding to the employer.

Administrative Determination: The court retains jurisdiction to confirm the total amount of child support arrearages and render judgment for past-due child support if a motion for enforcement requesting a money judgment is filed not later than the 10th anniversary after the date (1) the child becomes an adult, or (2) on which the child support obligation terminates under the child support order or by operation of law. The Texas Family Code also establishes that the trial court’s jurisdiction to enforce its divorce decree does not expire until all arrears are paid.

Child Support Judgment

The court retains jurisdiction to confirm the total amount of child support arrearages and render judgment for past-due child support if a motion for enforcement requesting a money judgment is filed not later than the 10th anniversary after the date (1) the child becomes an adult, or (2) on which the child support obligation terminates under the child support order or by operation of law. The Texas Family Code also establishes that the trial court’s jurisdiction to enforce its divorce decree does not expire until all arrears are paid.

CHILD SUPPORT LIENS.

A child support lien arises by operation of law when any payment is delinquent.  Every child support payment not timely made will give rise to a judgment.  There is no requirement to secure a child support cumulative money judgment before filing a child support lien. According to the Family Code, a child support lien may be issued “regardless of whether the amounts have been adjudicated or otherwise determined.   A lien attaches to all property owned by the obligor except his/her homestead. The lien is recorded with the County Clerk’s Office, which cannot charge the obligee a recording fee for filing the lien. The obligee has 21 days from the date of filing the lien to provide copies of the lien to the obligor by first class or certified mail at his/her last known address.

Child Support Liens to Financial Institutions. A child support lien also may be served on any financial institution that holds money belonging to the obligor.  The lien applies to all funds held by the institution in the name of or on behalf of the obligor or in which the obligor has a beneficial interest.   A lien may be delivered to the bank’s registered agent, main business address or an address designated by the bank to accept liens. The statute does not require service, only delivery. The lien does not have to be filed with the District Clerk’s Office.  The child support lien is applicable regardless of whether the bank’s main office is in Texas.  The child support lien attaches to retirement plans, life insurance proceeds, cash surrender value in life insurance policies, claims owed to the obligor (for personal injury or negligence) and an inheritance given to the obligor.  A child support lien may also be filed against mutual funds, 401k accounts and money market accounts. A child support lien served on a financial institution freezes the account. The financial institution cannot allow any further transactions. A child support lien filed of record is not superior to a purchase-money instrument, but the lien must be satisfied in order to clear title to the property. A child support lien remains in effect until all child support, current and past due, is paid, along with the interest, costs and attorney’s fees. It is difficult to attach a lien to items of personal property, because a bona fide purchaser may not be aware of the lien.

LEVIES ON FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS.

A child support lien to a financial institution freezes the money so that the obligor cannot access it. A levy is required to actually put the money in the obligee’s pocket. A judgment or administrative determination of child support arrears is required in order to file a child support levy. TEX. FAM. CODE § 157.327(a). An administrative determination of child support arrearages occurs when the arrearages are determined under a judicial or administrative Writ of Withholding. A levy is delivered to a financial institution in the same manner as a child support lien. The obligor must be sent a copy of Notice of Levy at the same time it is delivered to the financial institution. A levy can be issued anytime when a child support judgment or administrative determination of arrearages has been rendered.   If the financial institution does not receive notice from the obligor that s/he contests the levy, the financial institution shall remit the monies to the obligee not earlier than the 15th day or later than the 21st day after delivery of the levy. The financial institution is also required to notify any other person who has a beneficial interest in the accounts about the Notice of Levy so that the person has an opportunity to file a suit to contest the child support levy. A financial institution that does not honor the levy is liable for the amount equal to the property held by the institution, not to exceed the total amount of the arrearages owed.

 SUSPENSION OF LICENSE FOR FAILURE TO PAY CHILD SUPPORT

Any license issued by the state of Texas is subject to suspension.  A license suspension may be brought at any time as long as the following criteria are met: (1) The obligor owes overdue support equal to or greater than the three months of support due under a support order  (2) Obligor was given an opportunity to make payments on the overdue support through a court ordered or agreed repayment schedule  and (3) Obligor failed to comply with the schedule

Contempt proceedings which include jail time

Jail time may be ordered if you are behind on your child support.  Typically, the first time you are served with an enforcement, the judge will give a payout plan and a window to come into compliance.  You would be ordered to jail but this would be suspended provided you start to pay your ongoing support timely and cure your arrears.  If the motion served asks for jail time more than six months, then you can request a jury trial.  Normally, all support more than 30 days in arrears to include cash medical support will subject you to an enforcement action which includes jail time.

Passport Sanctions

If you owe more than $2,500 in overdue support, you could be subjected to passport sanctions. The state “Title IV-D agency” certifies the names of such non-custodial parents to the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) for communication to the Secretary of State. While the provision under PRWORA authorizing this enforcement mechanism speaks broadly of the denial of issuance or renewal of passports and the imposition of restrictions or revocation on existing passports, the current program actually operates with respect to denial of an application for a passport.  Once a passport is issued,  it continues in effect for a 10-year period, which means that many delinquent obligors will not be affected by this enforcement mechanism.

Credit Bureau Reporting

The state Title IV-D program is authorized to report the names of delinquent support obligors and the amounts of the delinquencies to consumer credit bureaus, subject to appropriate due process protections under which the obligor may contest the amount of the arrearage being reported.

QUALIFIED DOMESTIC RELATIONS ORDERS FOR CHILD SUPPORT

A “qualified domestic relations order” is an order issued by a state court to a pension plan subject to the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).  The use of a QDRO in child support is similar to the use of a QDRO in the division of property in a divorce. Like a QDRO in a divorce, the QDRO must be “qualified”, that is, accepted by the plan administrator in order for the plan to comply with the domestic order exception of ERISA that allows the division of a benefit plan. The basic requirements of any QDRO is that it must: be directed to the Benefits Administrator; identify the plan to which it applies; contain the name, mailing address and social security number of the participant; identify the amount of current child support and/or child support arrearages; contain the name and address of the child support recipient (“Alternate Payee”); and the amount of the child support recipient’s interest in the benefits plan.  Those requirements are all the “magic language” that is required in a QDRO under federal statute. Instead of listing a percentage or dollar value of a property, a QDRO for child support will include the current periodic child support obligation (if any), the total amount of the arrearages and the terms of the repayment obligation.