When a child’s parents do not live together — either because they have divorced or because they were never married — the noncustodial parent will usually be required to make regular child support payments. Child support is designed to ensure that the child has the support and care of both parents, even if he or she only lives with one of them.
Child support payments can be expensive, but parents who are considering missing payments really should think twice. Missed child support payments don’t just hurt the child — they can also subject the parent to severe criminal and civil penalties.
A recent enforcement effort by the Texas Attorney General’s Office and the Hidalgo County Sherriff should serve as a warning to any Texas parent who is behind on his or her child support. Together, the department targeted 64 parents who were labeled as some of the county’s worst child support offenders. Combined, they owed more than $1,000,000 in back payments.
The enforcement effort started around 5:00 a.m. with officers visiting the men’s homes. Those who were at home were arrested and booked into the Hidalgo County Jail. Those who were not at home were tracked down by sheriff’s deputies. All told, 36 noncompliant parents were arrested in the roundup. If convicted, the parents could be required to spend up to six months in jail.
After the action, law enforcement warned noncompliant parents that it is much better for them to turn themselves in than to risk being arrested. Parents with child support warrants can avoid the embarrassment of a public arrest by reporting to their local sheriff’s office. Parents who are behind on their child support obligations but are not yet subject to a warrant would be wise to contact the Texas Attorney General’s Office to make arrangements.
Enforcing Texas child support obligations
The enforcement effort also serves as a timely reminder of the child support services that are available to custodial parents in Texas. Any parent who needs help collecting past-due child support can contact the Child Support Division of the Texas Attorney General’s Office to ask for help. The Child Support Division can take a number of steps to help secure payment, including the following:
- Requiring employers to deduct child support payments from the noncustodial parent’s wages
- Seizing tax refunds, lottery winnings or other windfall income
- Securing liens against the noncustodial parent’s property
- Suspending the noncustodial parent’s driver’s license or professional license
- Suing the noncustodial parent to enforce the child support order
These are just a few of the ways to enforce a child support obligation. In addition to contacting the Attorney General’s office, custodial parents would be wise to consult with an experienced Texas family law attorney who can help them secure the benefits their child is entitled to.