Under the Texas Family Code, Section 154.001, a non-custodial parent is required to pay child support until a child graduates from high school or turns 18, whichever is last. When the parent fails to pay child support as ordered, the Child Support Division of the Texas Attorney General’s Office will use several enforcement methods to collect all unpaid support.
A Texas court will order the non-custodial parent to pay child support during a divorce, separation or paternity proceeding. The support amount is based on the non-custodial parent’s income, as well as the number of children who need support. The state’s child support guidelines allow a court to order child support in the amount of 20 percent of the parent’s income for one child and an additional 5 percent for each child, up to 40 percent for five or more children. That income percentage is a minimum amount and can be increased if the court finds that a child has any extraordinary needs.
Statute of Limitations
Texas does not have a statute of limitations on child support collection. If a parent fails to meet his obligation, Texas’ child support law authorizes the Child Support Division to use any available methods of enforcement until all back support is paid. Section 157.261 of the Texas Family Code also permits the state to calculate interest on all back support at a rate of 6 percent per year. The longer the parent attempts to avoid paying support, the more money he will owe. And with all enforcement methods available, the Child Support Division will collect every dollar owed; regardless of how long it takes.
The Child Support Division is permitted to order the owing parent’s employer to withhold the child support amount from the parent’s income. This method of enforcement, called wage garnishment, guarantees that the current support amount is paid and allows for an additional percentage of the income to be deducted to pay any back support.
If a non-custodial parent is expecting a state or federal tax refund, or he wins the lottery, the Child Support Division can intercept any of those funds to pay all back support owed.
Additionally, the agency can file a lien against any of the parent’s personal property, including real estate, cars and bank accounts. If the parent sells the property or attempts to withdraw money from his account, the Child Support Division can seize the sale’s proceeds or the back account’s funds and transfer them to the owed parent to pay down the back support.
A court can hold a parent in contempt if she fails to pay child support as ordered. A parent can be sentenced to serve up to six months in jail for avoiding his child support obligation.
Bernadette A. Safrath is an attorney who has been writing professionally since 2008. Safrath was published in Touro Law Center's law review and now writes legal articles for various websites. Safrath has a Bachelor of Arts in music from Long Island University at C.W. Post, as well as a Juris Doctor from Touro College.