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What to Know If You Owe Child Support

Child custody and support issues are some of the most heavily litigated areas in Texas courtrooms. In some cases, the court may hold a parent liable for their past-due child support, even if the child’s primary conservator doesn’t care. Owing child support can have serious ramifications, so any debt should be addressed quickly. Read this blog for some important information you should know if you owe child support. 

Determining Child Support

In Texas, the courts decide child support based on how much each parent makes. One parent is designated the primary conservator, and the other parent may or may not have conservatorship. The non-primary conservator owes a certain percentage of income based on the total of both parents’ income. There are guidelines out there for determining child support, but the courts can use their own discretion, so the actual amount required may be higher or lower than the guidelines suggest. 

Once there is a child support order, you need to either pay the amount ordered or let the court know why you are not meeting your obligation. If your circumstances have changed, you should not wait until you have a large arrearage before letting the court know what happened. If you owe child support, you will have to answer to the judge.

What Is an Arrearage?

When you pay child support, there is a system that will keep track of how much you owe. If you do not pay, it is obvious immediately. That amount will accumulate based on how long you go without paying. The amount you owe will not change until the judge orders a different amount. This total child support debt is called an arrearage. 

What Happens If You Lose Your Job?

During the pandemic, many people lost their jobs as businesses temporarily changed services and goods. Even if you are dedicated to your children and want to pay child support, you cannot pay if you no longer have an income. The first thing you should do when something like this happens is to let the court and the other parent know what is going on. Don’t let it be a surprise that your child support payments aren’t showing up. You may even be able to work out an arrangement to help you stay afloat and make smaller payments until you can pay more again. However, this system should be arranged with the court. An informal agreement with your ex will not necessarily prevent the courts from holding you accountable for your missed payments. 

How the Court Can Deal With Your Arrearage

There are several things the judge might do to attempt to force you to make up lost payments. Don’t forget that your obligation does not stop until the child is an adult and that you will still owe any arrearage after the child reaches adulthood.

  • The court can suspend your driver’s license, your professional license, and even your hunting/fishing license.
  • The attorney general can refuse to allow you to obtain or renew a passport.
  • The attorney general can collect the money by intercepting lottery winnings and by putting liens on any property you own or lawsuits in which you have an interest. Once the courts get your work information, they can withhold your wages to collect an arrearage.
  • By law, the attorney general will notify credit bureaus of your arrearage.
  • Depending on how much you owe, the Court can find you in contempt civilly or criminally. If there is a large enough arrearage, you may face jail time for unpaid child support.

The Other Parent Cannot Punish You for Not Paying

Some parents try to deny access to your children when you are behind on your child support. Child support and custody/visitation are completely separate issues. Refusing a parent their visitation or custodial rights punishes the child, and the court will look on it very unfavorably.

Will the Court Ever Dismiss Back Child Support?

To have an arrearage dismissed, you will need to file a request for review. If the custodial parent agrees, you may be able to have all or part of your arrearage dismissed. The office of the attorney general child support division in Texas has a website where you can see all your child support payments. If you have any questions about child support, or if you need help dealing with an arrearage, please contact Setzer Law Firm in Colleyville right away so we can start working on your case.

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