Collecting Past Due Child Support in Texas

For most families, September represents the beginning of a new school year. This means new clothes for kids, along with notebooks, backpacks, pencils and other materials needed for school. Obviously, all of this costs money. According to the National Retail Federation, families of school age children will spend 14 percent more on school materials, for an average of $688 per family.

While this figure may seem expensive for two-parent households, it is even more daunting for single parents who rely on monthly child support to make ends meet. According to a U.S. Census Bureau report, the average child support payment is $430, but less than half of all obligors (those ordered to make support payments) make full payments.

The State of Texas collects more child support than any other state, but it lags in collecting overdue support. According to a ConnectAmarillo.com report, delinquent cases and amounts owed are rising faster here than in many other states. It is estimated that Texas parents owe $13.3 billion in back child support.

Despite the amounts owed, authorities have a number of ways to ensure compliance with support orders.

Driver's License Suspension

State law also allows courts to issue orders directing the Department of Transportation to suspend a non custodial parent's driver's license, or to prohibit the issuance or renewal of a new license due to child support arrears.

Federal Tax Refund Offset Program

The Federal Tax Refund Offset Program (FTROP) allows collection of child support payments a noncustodial parent's federal income tax refund if they owe past due support. Before a case is submitted to FTROP, there must be an overdue amount of $150 or more (in cases involving cash assistance). In all other cases, tax returns will be offset to satisfy overdue amounts of $500 or more. In both instances, the overdue support will continue to be collected until all arrears are paid, regardless of whether the child is still a minor.

Credit Bureau Reporting

The Attorney General's Office may also report overdue support to consumer credit reporting agencies, including Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. These obligations will show up on a person's credit report and negatively affect their credit score.

Property Liens

Overdue support obligations can also lead to a lien being placed on any and all real property owned by the noncustodial parent in Texas. Before such property can be sold, any existing liens must be satisfied.

Passport Denial

The Department of State can also be notified to flag any new passport applications (and passport renewals) for denial based on unpaid support obligations. The Department of State will not process any such applications until it receives notice support arrears have been satisfied.

Conclusion

The preceding is meant to provide an overview of the various tools that can be used to collect unpaid child support, and is not intended to be legal advice. Also bear in mind that the Attorney General's Office does not represent either parent (mom or dad) in support proceedings, so it is important to have your own legal representation in these matters. An experienced family law attorney can monitor the AG's case and keep you apprised so that you don't have to take precious time away from work for meaningless hearings. A lawyer can also file motions on your behalf to protect your interests.

If you have questions about your support obligation and what can be done to address (or avoid) arrears, contact an experienced Texas family law attorney.