Protecting Your Family's Future
 

Millions of Dollars Stuck in Texas Child Support “Purgatory”

A recently released report shows that, during the third quarter of 2015, the Texas Attorney General’s office held onto more than $55 million in child support payments that had been made by non-custodial parents. Officials say that amount has nearly tripled in the last four years. Unfortunately, in most cases, nobody really knows why.

A spokesperson for the state attorney general’s office said that there are often good or valid reasons for withholding payment, including:

  • The filing of a dispute by either party to a divorce—officials are reluctant to distribute funds until the legal dispute is resolved
  • The state may have inaccurate information for one of the parties, including address of the recipient
  • There may be a change in the payer’s employment

According to advocates for custodial parents, the money is frequently withheld from families with little or no other resources to meet daily expenses. When funds are not distributed in a timely manner, those families are often forced to seek TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) payments, which cost taxpayers a substantial amount of money. Advocates say that most recipients can get the state to release funds by hiring an attorney, but that’s a luxury most cannot afford.

An employee in the AG’s office said that the agency works hard to get dollars to recipients in a timely manner, but also acknowledged that the state has no way of tracking how many recipients have money that’s being withheld.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to family law clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

Se Habla Espanol | ASL and ESL Services Also Available

Harris County Works with AG’s Office to Collect $150 in Child Support

The Harris County FOCAS program—an acronym for Focus on Collection and Services—worked in partnership with the Texas Attorney General’s office in 2015 to collect more than $150 million in child support payments.

The program, which has been in place for more than a decade, uses a range of legal tools to collect and enforce child support orders. Officials may legally withhold or garnish the wages of a non-custodial parent to pay child support. The county also uses state and federal tax refund intercepts, as well as liens and contempt proceedings. Federal tax intercepts make up about $2 million in annual receipts.

The FOCAS program is not mandatory in Harris County, but parties to a divorce will automatically be included unless they opt out. For custodial parents, there’s a real incentive to participate, as the average monthly support amount collected per case through FOCAS is $766.65, whereas individuals outside the program recover only an average of $530.64. Approximately 85% of parents in the FOCAS program pay their support in full and on time. Only 58% of those outside the program are compliant with court support orders.

Though the program is 12 years old, there are still many older support orders that are not subject to FOCAS. Authorities expect that, over the next few years, the number of non-FOCAS cases in the system will fall dramatically.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to family law clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

 

Se Habla Espanol | ASL and ESL Services Also Available

What Happens If I Stop Paying Child Support?

It is wiser to ask the court to modify your child support obligation than it is to stop paying child support altogether without any explanation. Child support modifications are available if your financial circumstances have changed or if you have additional children, for example.

If you stop paying child support without notifying the court, you could suffer significant negative consequences – including a jail sentence. Before any negative consequences can accrue, however, someone – either the other parent, the Office of the Texas Attorney General, or the county domestic relations office – must file an enforcement action against you. If the motion for enforcement is successful, then you will be found in contempt of court because you failed to comply with the terms of a court-ordered child support obligation.

  • You could go to jail for up to 6 months, with child support still accruing during the time you serve.
  • Nonpayment of child support is a felony crime, which means you could be deported if you are a permanent resident and not a citizen.
  • Your jail sentence could be suspended and you could be put on supervision (probation). The conditions of probation can include regular child support payments, regular payments towards any past unpaid child support, and payment of the other parent’s attorneys’ fees for filing the motion for enforcement.
  • The other parent could place a lien on any property you own, which means that proceeds from the sale would go to satisfy your child support obligation.
  • The other parent could have your wages or tax refund garnished.
  • If you have any state-issued license, it could be suspended. These include your driver’s license, your hunting or fishing license, and any occupational license.

You can find additional information about the consequences of failing to pay child support on the website of Legal Aid of Northwest Texas.

There are defenses to a motion for enforcement, and we can help. Stewart Law, PLLC, located in Baytown, Texas, has provided legal counsel to men and women in divorce and family law matters for 8 years. For an initial assessment and consultation of your child support case, contact us online  or call our office at (281) 420-8020, at a reduced fee of $50.

 
Left Menu Icon
Stewart Law PLLC