Houston Child Support/Visitation Enforcement Lawyer
Child support and visitation are both important concerns to the parents involved in any divorce, and it can be extremely difficult for a custodial parent to exercise their rights when the noncustodial parent is violating the terms of child support or visitation order. These kinds of cases can be complicated because there may be reasons beyond a parent’s control why they have stopped paying child support or complying with visitation schedules.
The Attorney General of Texas states that a parent who is struggling to make payments should contact the Child Support Division as soon as possible. Child support locations in Houston include Houston Northwest at Suite B of 2110 East Governors Circle, Houston Southwest at Suite 420 of 6161 Savoy Drive, Houston Southeast at Suite 200 of 8866 Gulf Freeway, Houston North at Suite 190 of 450 North Sam Houston Parkway East, and Houston East at Suite 125 of 5144 East Sam Houston Parkway North.
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Child Support Enforcement
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has multiple mechanisms available for enforcing child support orders. Some of these actions may include:
- License Suspension – The OAG works with over 60 licensing agencies and can request that these agencies suspend your drivers, professional and hunting and fishing licenses, if you fail to pay your child support.
- Passport Denial – The OAG can deny a noncustodial parent a new or renewed passport.
- Liens – The OAG can file a lien on properties, bank accounts, retirement plans, life insurance plans, personal injury claims, insurance settlements or awards and other assets if a noncustodial parent fails to pay their child support.
- Credit Bureau Reporting – The Office of the Attorney General is required by law to report the amount of child support owed and the amount paid to the credit reporting agencies.
- Lottery Intercept – Lottery prizes issued by the Texas Comptroller’s Office are subject to being intercepted and applied toward child, medical and dental support arrears.
- Civil or Criminal Contempt – In civil contempt cases, the court will assess a specific number of days and/or a fine for each missed payment. The sentence must be served even if full payment is made. In criminal contempt cases, an obligor is sentenced to jail until he/she complies with the court order. The order usually states the obligor is to pay a certain amount called the “purge” amount or pay all of the unpaid child support.
The OAG notes that it cannot enforce visitation orders. People with those concerns are instructed to contact the Access & Visitation Hotline.
The Office of the Attorney General’s Child Support Evader Program seeks tips from the public to locate parents who are avoiding their court-ordered obligation to support their children.
The Office of the Attorney General is required by law to publicly identify those parents who are delinquent in the payment of their child support and meet the conditions below:
- Court-ordered delinquent child support must be more than $5,000
- An arrest warrant has been issued
- The noncustodial parent is avoiding apprehension
- There have not been any regularly made payments in the last six months
- The noncustodial parent must not be involved in bankruptcy proceedings or receive TANF benefits
- A confidentiality waiver must be signed by the custodial parent, allowing certain case information to be made public
- A photograph must be available
The Office of the Attorney General can petition the court or use administrative remedies to suspend a license issued to a noncustodial parent who owes overdue child support in an amount equal to or greater than the total support due for three months, and has been provided with an opportunity to make payments toward the overdue child support under a court-ordered or agreed repayment schedule, or fails to comply with the repayment schedule.
Licenses related to practicing or engaging in a particular business, occupation, or profession, operating a motor vehicle, or engaging in any other regulated activity for which a license or permit is required, including; hunting, fishing or other recreational activity could be denied or suspended.
The Child Support Review Process (CSRP) is an in-office administrative process to establish, modify, or enforce child, medical, and dental support obligations and determine paternity. The CSRP will typically take place at a local Child Support Division office.
Typically, both parties and a Child Support Officer (CSO) are in the room for the meeting. A CSRP negotiation meeting usually takes about 60 to 90 minutes, depending on many factors, including what issues need to be addressed.
If both parties agree to the terms, the order will be sent to a judge for final signature. If both parties cannot come to an agreement about the child support order, the case will be scheduled for a court hearing. Cases in which the OAG is aware of family violence or one party is a minor are generally NOT eligible for CSRP.
Child support cases may be heard in court if one of the parties is a victim of family violence and notifies the OAG that they have safety concerns, the parties did not come to an agreement during their CSRP, one of the parties is a minor, or the OAG determines that the court process is appropriate in that case. If a case is set for court, a person will receive notice in the mail or will be formally served with notice paperwork that will include a court date, time and location.
At court, parties will meet with a Child Support Officer (CSO) or Assistant Attorney General (AAG) to attempt to negotiate an agreed order. If both parties agree to the terms of the order, the order will be presented to the judge for final approval and signature.
If both parties don’t agree to all the terms of the court order, an AAG will present information to the court and the judge will make a final determination regarding the order. Parties should be aware that cases that go to court may require long waits at the courthouse, and may require more than one appearance to resolve all the issues.
Child Visitation Enforcement
As the Supreme Court of Texas stated in Ex Parte Slavin, 412 S.W. 2d 43 (Texas 1967), “It is an accepted rule of law that for a person to be held in contempt for disobeying a court decree, the decree must spell out the details of compliance in clear, specific and unambiguous terms so that such person will readily know exactly what duties or obligations are imposed upon him.” In other words, a visitation order must involve a specific time, place, and date to exchange the children to be enforceable, as language such as “by agreement of the parties” could lead to possible issues with orders not being enforceable.
Many parents may need to file a motion for enforcement, which Texas Family Code § 157.001 stipulates is a motion for enforcement that can be filed to enforce any provision of a temporary or final order rendered in a suit. The court may enforce by contempt any provision of a temporary or final order.
A court can enforce a temporary or final order for child support as provided in this chapter or Chapter 158. A motion for enforcement shall be filed in the court of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction.
Under Texas Family Code § 157.002, a motion for enforcement must, in ordinary and concise language, identify the provision of the order allegedly violated and sought to be enforced; state the manner of the respondent’s alleged noncompliance; state the relief requested by the movant; and contain the signature of the movant or the movant’s attorney. A motion for enforcement of child support must include the amount owed as provided in the order, the amount paid, and the amount of arrearages; if contempt is requested, must include the portion of the order allegedly violated and, for each date of alleged contempt, the amount due and the amount paid, if any; may include as an attachment a copy of a record of child support payments maintained by the Title IV-D registry or a local registry; and if the obligor owes arrearages for a child receiving assistance under Part A of Title IV of the federal Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. Section 601 et seq.), may include a request that the obligor pay the arrearages in accordance with a plan approved by the court; or if the obligor is already subject to a plan and is not incapacitated, the obligor participate in work activities, as defined under 42 U.S.C. Section 607(d), that the court determines appropriate.
Texas Family Code § 157.002(c) states that a motion for enforcement of the terms and conditions of conservatorship or possession of or access to a child must include the date, place, and, if applicable, the time of each occasion of the respondent’s failure to comply with the order. The movant is not required to plead that the underlying order is enforceable by contempt to obtain other appropriate enforcement remedies, and the movant may allege repeated past violations of the order and that future violation of a similar nature may occur before the date of the hearing.
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Ikaha M. Sparrow
Texas Enforcement (Child Support / Visitation) Resources
Handbook for Noncustodial Parents – View the Texas Attorney General’s handbook for noncustodial parents to inform noncustodial parents about paternity establishment and child support services. Find 10 things noncustodial parents should know about paternity and child support. Also learn about the basics of child support services.
Visitation Enforcement Forms | TexasLawHelp.org – Find a visitation journal template and visitation demand letter on this website. You can also access a visitation enforcement kit. Additional forms can also be found on this website.
Contact An Enforcement (Child Support / Visitation) Attorney In Houston | The Sparrow Law Firm, PLLC
Do you need help enforcing child support or visitation relating to your divorce in Houston or a surrounding area of Harris County? You will want to have The Sparrow Law Firm, PLLC, be your voice in the courtroom.
Our firm appreciates the hardships that these kinds of issues can cause for parents, and we will work tirelessly to make sure you are fully taken care of. You can have us review your case and explore all of your legal options with you when you call 281-973-0431 or contact us online to receive a free consultation.