Child support is simply the money paid by one or both parents of a child for the benefit of that child. Entering child support orders can be simple, however collecting is often a challenge. Family Courts across the state typically use the child support guidelines found in the Texas Family Code to determine child support. A Court may modify child support if there has been a materially and substantial change in the life of a parent or the child OR it has been three years since the child support was ordered and it will increase or decrease by either 20 percent or $100. A material and substantially change usually this means a change in employment or a loss of a job.
Originally, child support guidelines were based on decades old studies indicating what percentage of a mothers’ standards of living dropped when fathers abandoned their kids and to a lesser extent how much the fathers’ standards of living increased. Today the culture of using a chart to determine the proper amount of child support in lieu of hearing evidence still exists.
An even more significant problem than the inherent inequities of determining child support from a chart arises for the inability to collect child support once ordered. Problems often arise when the obligor changes jobs frequently, the obligor doesn’t notify the court of a change of address, or hides income. Non-payment is almost always deliberate and the legal remedy is typically a multi-step process. Often a motion to enforce is filed, asking the Court to order the obligor to go to jail or ordering the obligor to pay money in lieu of going to jail. Like any case there is an upfront cost to hiring an attorney to collect past due child support. Even after hiring an attorney money is sometimes hard to collect therefore trust is critical in this type of attorney-client relationship in order to ensure that your money is well spent.
Collection problems in Texas are so pervasive that the criminal charge of criminal non-support was created. The hope was to provide further incentives to pay child support by threatening delinquent parents with a two-year long state jail sentence. Typically, the plea offer for the delinquent party will be probation and payment of arrearages as a condition of probation. If the arrearages are not paid during the probationary period then the parent may be sentenced for up to two years confinement in a state jail.