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Consequences of Failure to Pay Child Support in Texas

Civil penalties and incarceration are possible when payments are delinquent

In Texas, a child has the right to support from both parents, and failure to meet those obligations can be a criminal offense. If you find yourself behind in your payments, or you need help collecting back payments, Robert Reid McInvale, Attorney at Law can help. For more than 30 years, we have provided reliable advice and determined advocacy for parents in support disputes. If you are facing severe consequences for delinquent payments, we can help you resolve the issue before the full weight of those consequences comes to bear. If you need to enforce your right to child support, we can guide you through the process and advocate strongly for you.

Jail is an option for failure to pay child support

A Texas court can order a parent jailed for up to six months for contempt of court due to unpaid child support. The court can also issue fines of up to $500 for each nonpayment and force the delinquent party to pay the other parent’s attorney fees and court costs.

The Office of the Attorney General of Texas enforces child support throughout the state through its Child Support Division, or CSD. CSD can take several enforcement measures, including:

  • Filing liens against real property and other assets
  • Suspending the delinquent parent’s driver license, professional licenses and certificates, and fish-and-game licenses
  • Intercepting lottery winnings, federal income tax refunds, and other state and federal monies to pay for child support
  • Referring cases back to court for enforcement
  • Wage garnishment

When a parent ordered to pay child support no longer resides in Texas, CSD can use federal law to reach across state lines for help from other states’ child support enforcement agencies. The law in this area continues to evolve. One proposed law would allow the attorney general’s office to suspend car registration for anyone who has not paid child support in six months.

Unpaid child support never goes away

Unpaid child support continues to accumulate, and the recipient is entitled to reasonable interest. Even if the court issues a modification reducing the monthly payments, there will be no retroactive reduction of the amount owed. There is no statute of limitations for unpaid child support, so even after the children have grown and left home, the recipient parent can still pursue enforcement actions. CSD provides for payroll deductions and easy payments to the State Disbursement Unit, so a supporting parent never even has to interact with the recipient parent. The law is stacked against parents who fail to meet their obligations, so it’s never a good idea to withhold child support payments.

Help for supporting parents who get behind

There are understandable reasons why supporting parents get behind in their payments. In general, the courts have sympathy for those dealing with forces beyond their control, but have no patience for those who have the means but simply refuse to pay. Therefore, if you are facing circumstances that make it difficult to pay, you should at least make a token payment to show good faith and then petition the court to modify your support order. Reasons to request a modification include:

  • Loss of employment or the failure of a business
  • Poor health
  • Increased expenses caring for other dependents, such as sick parents, a spouse, or children from another relationship

A court is likely to grant a modification is you have suffered a substantial change in your financial circumstances.

However, if you’ve been simply withholding payments because of a dispute over visitation, the court is not going to look kindly upon your tactics. You need to file a complaint against the other parent for interference with your visitation and ask the court to enforce the existing parenting plan. But before you ask the court for any favors, you need to become current with your support payments.

Consult a skilled Houston child custody and support lawyer today

If you are engaged in a child support dispute, speak to Robert Reid McInvale, Attorney at Law. For a complete evaluation of your legal options, call our firm at 866-959-7824 or contact us online to schedule an appointment. We’re proud to serve individuals and families throughout Houston and the surrounding communities.