You’ve been through a divorce or a suit affecting the parent-child relationship, and the other party was ordered to pay child support by the Court, the terms of which were all located within the Court’s final orders. With all orders of child support, the orders state how much the obligor (responsible parent) is supposed to pay, how often they have to pay, and to whom they make the payment (in most if not all cases, the state disbursement unit). However, it’s been several months, or even years, and the other party has failed to comply with the child support order. You need financial help in raising your child; but you’ve reminded the other parent time and time again about this, and they still refuse to help you. So, you contact your attorney at Guest & Gray, P.C. who informs you that there is a solution–motion for enforcement.
Within this motion for enforcement, you will plead the dates that the child support payments were due, the amount that was due, and the amount that was paid. So, for instance, if the obligor was ordered to pay $200.00 on the first day of each month, and they just didn’t make a payment at all, then the amount paid would be $0.00. And, if they did make a payment of some amount, you can list that. But, the reality is that they were ordered to pay a certain amount, and that amount needed to be paid in full.
Because the obligor has failed to make their child support payments, then they are now in what is called arrearages for child support. This means that they have an outstanding balance. In pleading for an enforcement of the child support order, you will plead the total amount that the obligor is currently in arrearages. You will ask that the Court confirm this amount when you have your hearing and order that the obligor be responsible for that full amount.
Within the remedies that can be requested, the most popular is that of contempt. That is, you can request that the Court order that the obligor be confined in jail or pay a fine in addition to the remedy of paying you the child support arrearages that he/she owes. You can also request that the Court enter a money judgment against the Respondent or obligor, impose a child support lien against Respondent’s property, order withholding from Respondent’s paycheck, and/or award your attorney’s fees. You and your attorney must be specific in the remedy that you are seeking, because unless it’s requested within your motion, then a judge can’t award it. So, be sure to ask for what you want.
With respect to attorney’s fees, sometimes in family law cases this can be hit or miss. It is generally determined on a case-by-case basis and can also depend upon the Court that your case is in. However, the Texas Family Code carves out a special niche for enforcement of child support cases. That is, Texas Family Code Section 157.167(a) states that if you prove that the Respondent has failed to make his/her child support payments, then the Court shall order the Respondent to pay your attorney fees and any costs associated with the suit. Another caveat is that if the Court finds that the Respondent is in arrearages for $20,000.00 or more in child support, then the Court must award attorney’s fees and costs unless the Court finds that Respondent is (1) involuntarily unemployed or is disabled; or (2) lacks the financial resources to pay the attorney’s fees and costs.
When a Court orders a person to pay child support, it does so because not only is it required by Texas law, but also because of a moral code to ensure that the children’s essential needs are met. So, if you are facing this situation, there is a remedy to make the other parent step up and comply with their obligation and with the Court orders. You just have to take the first step and bring it to the Court’s attention.