It happens to a surprising number of parents. They have the best intentions for paying child support, but then something happens that gets in the way of that. In some cases, a parent loses a job, and even with unemployment, there might not be enough to make ends meet and keep child support obligations. In some cases, there might be a medical emergency that not only creates a new financial obligation, but makes it impossible for the parent to work for a time.
In Texas, the Office of the Attorney General recommends that a parent who faces a temporary hardship contact the Child Support Division to inform them. Just taking that step won’t reduce the child support obligation. It takes a court order to make that happen. But if the OAG isn’t notified, it can step in and take enforcement steps. According to its website, those steps include:
· suspending your drivers, professional and hunting and fishing licenses
· denying a new passport or passport renewal
· filing a lien on properties, bank accounts, retirement plans, life insurance plans, personal injury claims, insurance settlements or awards and other assets
· reporting the amount of child support owed and the amount paid to credit reporting agencies
It’s even possible that it gets to the civil or criminal contempt level. As the site notes:
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.
Because child support is a court-ordered payment, it’s not something to be ignored or put off. While the above steps might not be taken by the OAG initially, those options are available, and can make a challenging financial situation even more challenging.
If you know that you need to change the court order – for example, if you’ve had to take a lower-paying job and need your child support obligation adjusted – it can be negotiated with your ex in an OAG-overseen negotiation. If your ex is unwilling to work out a deal, then it would require a judge’s intervention to change your decree.
The Law Office of Lisa A. Vance has worked with parents who have trouble meeting child support obligations to get them lowered. We’re happy to talk to you about your options as well as how to go about filing a decree modification. While you should let the OAG know if you can’t make your obligations, you want to make sure that your obligations reflect what you can and should pay. We can help you figure out what that is and get you to that new amount as soon as possible.