Originally published by The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC Blog.
One of the most helpless feelings that a parent can experience is being in a position where you are not receiving the court ordered child support that you are entitled to. This can leave you vulnerable to the ups and downs of your own income leaving you little wiggle room to plan and budget for your family. On another level, it can and should anger you because your child’s other parent is placing other responsibilities ahead of providing for their child. Having someone essentially tell you that your child isn’t that important can be extremely hurtful- especially when that other person is your child’s parent.
Make no mistake, you have options available to you if and when your child’s other parent does not fulfill their end of the bargain when it comes to paying child support. The most straightforward and practical option when it comes to bringing the violations of your child support order to the attention of a judge is called an Enforcement suit.
An enforcement lawsuit seeks to do exactly what it sounds like- enforce something, namely a court order. You would file this lawsuit just like a Divorce or Original child custody suit. The only difference is that this the second case under the original case number that you were assigned in your child custody/divorce case. In this suit you would be notifying the judge of the other parent’s violations of the child support order and can then request “relief” from the court in the form of money and possible jail time for your child’s other parent.
It takes effort and planning on your part to get to the point where you can successfully present your case to a judge. Before then you are just another parent who is not receiving the child support payments you are supposed to be. Sometimes taking that first step towards learning about child support enforcement cases is the most difficult step in the process.
What happens, though, when your child’s other parent does not live close to your child or even within the State of Texas? Is the process the same for parents that do live in-State? Today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC will detail this subject.
People moving frequently is a reality in today’s world
As economies change, the job market changes as well. Gone are the days where a person is well guaranteed to grow up and live in one geographic location. Many times, people will up and move not only across a city but across the country for a variety of reasons.
Family courts cannot force you or your child’s other parent to reside in a certain place. However, a family court does have jurisdiction to limit where your child resides. Many parents choose to include what is known as a geographic restriction within their original court order. This geographic restriction often limits where your child can live to the county where your case was filed and any county that borders it. Family law language would term this as any county “contiguous” to the county where your case has been filed.
I have seen families in the Houston area use Harris County and any county contiguous to Harris. I have seen parents state that their child can live in Harris or Montgomery counties. I have even seen some parents state that the child must remain in a school district due to the excellent reputation of the schools. Whatever option is chosen, you need to know whether a geographic restriction is in place for you child and if so where your child can reside.
Getting back to the specific topic of this blog post, it happens that sometimes parents will cross state lines and begin to live in another state even if a geographic restriction is in place for their child. This parent is most frequently the non custodial parent- meaning that their child does not live with him or her primarily. There is nothing against the “rules” to do this. Again, a court cannot tell this parent where he or she can live. However, what it does do is open up the places where the child can reside. The reason being is that once the non custodial parent leaves the geographic region, so can the custodial parent and child.
Out of sight, out of mind unfortunately
Once your child’s other parent moves out of state it becomes an unfortunate situation that because he or she does not see your child as frequently their motivation to pay child support can decrease a great deal. Maybe their move was predicated upon the promise of a job in the new location that did not actually come together as planned. Whatever the reason, if you are left waiting on child support from a parent that lives out of state here is what you need to know.
There are procedures in place that all states follow that allow for parents to enforce child support orders when the parent who owes child support resides outside of the home state. The Uniform Interstate Child Support Act (UIFSA) is the federal statute that contains the specific laws that pertain to this subject. In Texas the Office of the Attorney General is the governmental body charged with overseeing the complex child support structure in Texas.
You as the custodial parent would need to send the child support order to whatever body governs child support enforcement cases in the State where your child’s other parent resides. Then the order is reviewed and it will be sent on to the county judge where the other parent lives. It is in that court that child support enforcement cases are hard.
You may be asking how an out of state court would so easily enforce the child support laws of Texas. To answer this question you would need to know that UIFSA operates based on the legal certainty that the out of state court would honor Texas state law and the court in the other state would apply our laws to the process in whatever state the other parent is residing in.
What happens if the other parent does not pay
Whatever collection methods are approved by Texas law will be enforced in the out of State court. Garnishing the parent’s wages is a possibility if the parent’s employer can be found out. Missed child support payments can be made known to credit bureaus and liens can be placed on the property of that parent. Finally licenses like hunting, fishing, driving, commercial driving, etc. can be suspended for the failure to pay court ordered child support.
In extreme situations you can ask a Texas court to hold a non-paying parent in confinement for a period not to exceed 180 days or six months. Depending on the amount of child support that is actually owed this may be an option. Either way, an enforcement case is pretty straightforward in the sense that you must show the missed payments and the amount of money that is owed. There is not much the other parent can do to counteract your alleged proof of the violations.
Experience is essential when managing a child support enforcement case
If you intend to pursue a child support enforcement case against your child’s other parent it is in your best interest to become as well versed in the child support laws of our state as possible. If at all possible you should hire an attorney who has handled these type of cases before so that you can be as prepared as possible heading into the case.
After reading today’s blog post if you have any questions about the material that we covered please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We offer free of charge consultations with our licensed family law attorneys six days a week. Whether you live in Baytown, Katy, Conroe or Tomball we work tirelessly on behalf of our clients and take pride in doing so. Before you rush into a case without much knowledge of the process or the law it is best to meet with an attorney who has been there and done that. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC are those attorneys and we thank you for your consideration.