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Methods used in Texas to encourage timely child support payments

When a Texas court makes a decision regarding child support payments, there is an expectation that the responsible party will follow through with the required payments. If the individual is unable or unwilling to pay the required amount in a timely manner, then the arrearages will accumulate. When a payment is short or completely missing, the amount owed is added to the total arrearages.

Texas parents may face up to six months in jail for contempt of court if they fail to keep up with a child support order. Individuals may also be fined up to $500 for failure to keep up with payments. Child support continues to accrue while people are in jail, so delinquent parents are encouraged to petition the court for a reduction in child support amounts while they are incarcerated. While future payments can be reduced, the courts are unable to retroactively change previous payment amounts.

The courts do not always put people in jail for failing to pay child support. They may also suspend the sentence and order community supervision or probation for a period of up to 10 years. The courts may also be able to place liens on property and bank accounts. Professional and driver's licenses can also be suspended as part of the efforts to bring the payments current.

People who are on the verge of being found in contempt of court for failing to pay child support may be able to defend themselves if they can prove to the courts that they were unable to met the obligations. They must also be able to show that they did not have any property that could be sold or mortgaged, that they attempted to borrow the money but were unable to, and that they were unaware of any other source where they could legally obtain the funds. A family law attorney can help a client assemble the required documentation to show the court that every effort was made to cover the child support payments.

Source: Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, "Child Support Arrearages", September 22, 2014

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