A previous post examined Texas’ child support philosophy. While the state’s version of the income shares model is rather unique, the enforcement and collection mechanisms should be familiar to immigrants from other states.
Child support is generally paid through the Office of the Attorney General. Obligors send their payments to the OAG, which then forwards those funds to the obligees. The state has experimented with other systems in the past, such as a prepaid debit card, but, for now, this method seems to be the most efficient, for both the state and the parents.
For the obligor, the system is verifiable. The OAG payment history serves as almost irrefutable evidence that the money was paid. There are no more checks that are undeposited because the obligee doesn’t have a bank account, no more money orders that are mysteriously lost, and no more arguments over who is responsible for what bills. Automatic drafts and payroll deductions are usually available.
The system is efficient for obligees. There is some lag time at first, but the payments quickly start to come in regularly. The OAG payment report is presumed to be the amount of money paid. If no money has passed through the OAG, the obligors must scramble to produce receipts and other proof of payment.
There is some relationship between visitation and payment. Obligees who see their kids regularly are more likely to pay child support on time. If the obligor is behind, the obligee has several options:
- Mediation: Some payment issues can be resolved after a brief face-to-face session before a neutral third party before a suit is ever filed. These mediations are particularly effective if the obligor had some temporary financial problems, such as a work injury or temporary layoff, which are now past.
- OAG Action: This office performs both collection and enforcement. The OAG can be rather slow to act, however. Generally, the obligor must pay a certain percentage of the arrears up front and can make payments on the remainder.
- Motion to Enforce: A better collection action is a private motion to enforce. The result is often similar, but a private attorney can act much more quickly to get you the money you need. Either party can ask to modify the amount of child support as well.
As with most cases, the vast majority of these actions settle out-of-court before trial. Also like in other cases, the guiding principle for the judge is always the best interests of the children.
All good parents want the best possible financial situation for their kids, regardless of how old they are or where they live.