What Are the Consequences of Not Paying Child Support in Texas?
Child support laws in Texas are stringent and don’t tolerate parents who fail or refuse to keep up with their child support obligations. There are severe consequences for parents who don’t obey court orders, regardless of their reasons for not paying child support.
If you’re a parent struggling to pay child support, you might be tempted to stop paying altogether. Doing so will only land you in trouble. Instead, consult experienced lawyers from a family law attorney in San Antonio for guidance on your options. They can advise you on how to avoid risking the following penalties:
1. Possible Jail Time
Under Texas Penal Code Sec 25.05, not following a child support court order can be considered contempt. It can attract a penalty of up to six months in jail for each missed payment. The statute states that “an individual is guilty of a criminal non-support offense if they knowingly or intentionally fail to provide support for an individual under 18 years who is the subject of a child support order.
Since going to jail for failure to pay child support is a real possibility, you don’t want to take the risk. Consult an experienced San Antonio child support lawyer and let them evaluate your case. They can defend you in court and help you explore other ways to meet your child support obligations.
2. A Warrant of Arrest Can Be Issued Against You
The other parent could report you to the authorities if you fail to pay child support. Even if the other parent does not report you, if that parent applies for government assistance, the Attorney General may decide to bring suit against you. Intentionally not keeping up with your obligations could make you end up on the website of the Attorney General in Texas.
The Office of the Attorney General runs a Child Support Evader Program that could publish your name and photos if you owe more than $5,000 in child support. The authorities could also have a warrant out for your arrest. Before that happens, consult a skilled San Antonio child support lawyer and let them advise you on your legal options.
3. Suspension or Revocation of Your Driver’s License
The court could suspend your driver’s license under Chapter 232 of the Texas Family Code. In addition to your driver’s license, all other licenses you hold issued by the state could be suspended.
Such include your professional licenses, fishing licenses, and a firearm license. This can be especially disastrous if you must have that professional license or driver’s license to maintain your employment. The Child Support Judge will not be sympathetic to your inability to work that was caused by the license revocation for failure to pay child support.
4. Garnishment of Your Wages
The state can issue an income withholding order (IWO) to deduct child support payments from your paycheck automatically. The order will be sent to your employer, who will adjust your earnings to ensure you remit child support to the custodial parent. Remittance of the payments is often done through the child support office. Employers are required to report your employment to the Attorney General automatically as soon as you are hired. And even if you are making less money than you made in the past, the Court can find that you are intentionally under-employed or unemployed and order you to pay child support based upon what you should be making in the Court’s opinion based on your employment history. In that case, it is essential that you have a lawyer who can argue to the judge why you cannot make the same income that you were making in the past. Further, you have a right that no more than half of your income should be garnished for child support.
5. Interception of Your Tax Returns, Inheritance, and Lottery Winnings
If you fall behind on child support payments, the other parent can request that the child support office seize your state and federal tax refunds. Even if the other parent hasn’t requested it, if there is a judgment against you for delinquent child support, the Attorney General may intercept money that is coming to you. Many people who were behind in child support found that their stimulus checks in 2021 and 2022 were redirected. The office will direct the money to the custodial parent to offset what you owe in child support. The same rule applies to any lottery winnings and other windfalls you may be expecting. The Attorney General can intercept, without warning, the proceeds of life insurance policies or inheritances that would otherwise come to you. Even after you die, the child support can be collected from your estate.
6. Ineligibility to Get a Passport
If you owe more than $2,500 in child support payments, you may not be eligible to receive a passport in the United States. You may require the intervention of a skilled child support attorney in San Antonio to help you navigate the matter.
7. A Lien Can Be Placed on Your Property
Child support liens are common in Texas. The liens are placed against cars, property, retirement plans, bank accounts, and other assets if you’ve got outstanding child support payments. The lien remains in place until you satisfy the child support debt.
8. Adverse Effect on Your Credit Rating
The Attorney General’s Office in Texas must report individuals who haven’t paid child support and the amount they owe to credit reporting agencies. So, if you’re behind in child support payments, seeing your credit score drop shouldn’t surprise you.
9. Unpaid Child Support Doesn’t Go Away
It is wrong to assume that once a child legally becomes an adult, that past due child support is no longer owed. Texas courts can still go after parents who owe child support even after their children come of age.
The payments may even increase over time due to the interest the state charges on late payments. The accumulation of interest can significantly increase the amount owed. Consult experienced child support lawyers in San Antonio if you’re worried you cannot pay the debt as scheduled. They can help you work out a plan through a child modification order.
10. You Still Have a Right to the Visitation Schedule
This is not a penalty but something you ought to know. Child support and visitation are treated separately in Texas. That means you still have a right to see your child even with unpaid child support payments. If the custodial parent refuses you to see your child, consult a family law and estate planning law firm in San Antonio to fight for your rights. You cannot withhold child support on grounds that the other parent is withholding your child from you, and they cannot withhold your child from you on the basis that you aren’t paying support.
Learn Your Legal Options When Struggling With Child Support in Texas
Texas has a zero-tolerance approach to child support, and parents who fail to keep up with this obligation risk getting hefty penalties. If you have a valid reason for not paying child support, contacting skilled child support attorneys in San Antonio is crucial. If you become disabled and cannot work, for example, then you may be entitled to avoid jail time even if the past debt doesn’t go away. More importantly, a new child support order can stop the debt from growing larger. Child support attorneys can help you petition the court to lower the amount to what you can comfortably pay, and set up a payment plan to make partial payments towards the arrearages.
Our law firm understands people going through tough times and can help them navigate the legal aspect of their situation. If there is a reason you cannot pay, it is important to ask for the child support order to be modified as soon as possible. Child Support cannot be retroactively lowered, but you can avoid the accumulation of future charges that you cannot pay. There are times when the Attorney General has failed to give all the credits that should be given on an account. An experienced attorney may be able to help you negotiate a lower monthly payment or reduce the total arrearage owed by finding credits that are due to you. Don’t hesitate to talk to us if you’re struggling with a child support order. Call Laura D. Heard Law Firm Inc. at (210) 655-9090 and have a compassionate professional listen to your situation.