The support of both parents is essential for children to get the best quality of life. Lack of consistent support could considerably lower the quality of life for any child. This support is essential, even if the parents are not together. The obligation to care for the child remains.
Child Support Process
In Texas, the Child support Division of the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) is responsible for establishing child support for the custodial parents of dependent children. Parents who seek child support must fill an application form. This form can be mailed to the parent for filling and submission; however, the recommended method is to fill the form online. Before accessing the online form, parents need to fill a short survey to determine which form is suitable for them. This survey can be accessed at https://childsupport.oag.state.tx.us/wps/portal/mobile/csi/MobileApplyOnlineAppType. The applications for parents vary depending on the circumstance of their case. An example of an application for a Custodial Parent Wanting to Establish Paternity can be found at https://childsupport.oag.state.tx.us/wps/portal/!ut/p/z1/04_Sj9CPykssy0xPLMnMz0vMAfIjo8ziLQwsLAwtTAy8DcyNXAwc_fyNfX0cXQ0N_Az0w_EqCDHWjyJGv4-_j4mhu4mRj4WnoamBY4BPsJmzh6-hgSuR-g1wAEcD4vTjURCF3_iC3FAgcFQEAJObllQ!/dz/d5/L2dBISEvZ0FBIS9nQSEh/. While filling out the application form, certain details would be requested from the parent. These include information about the parent like date of birth, physical and mailing addresses, social security number, driver’s license number, telephone number, etc. As well as information about the other parent such as full name, date of birth, last known address, employer details, etc. Other information that may be requested includes the name of the child, custodial parent of the child, the relationship between the parents, etc. These details are used to help locate the noncustodial parent so that a notice of the child support case can be served, and the case can progress.
After locating the parent, the OAG can help establish the paternity of the child if the child was born out of wedlock. If both parents agree on the child’s paternity, they can voluntarily establish paternity with an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP). Details on filling the AOP can be found at https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/child-support/paternity/acknowledgement-paternity-aop. In situations where the child’s paternity is disputed, the court can order a paternity test. DNA tests are used to determine paternity using swab samples collected from the child and each parent. Results are up to 99% accurate and are available within 4-6 weeks after the swabs are collected. If the man is determined to be the child’s biological father, a paternity order can be established.
For more details on establishing the paternity of a child, visit https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/sites/default/files/files/divisions/crime-victims/Paternity%20Child%20Support%20and%20You.pdf
When paternity has been established, the AOG can go about establishing the child support order, as well as a medical support order, if applicable.
A $35 annual fee is charged on all child support cases once the amount of support collected in a year exceeds $550. This fee is waived for parents who have received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits. Apart from this annual fee, Texas also charges a $3 monthly State Disbursement Unit (SDU) fee for parents who receive registry-only services.
How Do You Receive Child Support?
Child support payments in Texas are made available to the custodial parent through either of two means. These options are activated after the first payment has been received. All parents receive their first child support payment as a check in the mail. Afterward, they would receive a mail from the Child Support Division offering them the options to receive their subsequent payments.
The first option is the use of a reloadable prepaid debit card known as the Texas Payment Card or the smiONE Visa Prepaid Card. This is a convenient way of receiving payments that does not require the parents to have an existing bank account. This in turn eliminates any need to make trips to the bank and allows easy tracking of transactions and card balances. More details about the card are available at https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/child-support/paying-and-receiving-child-support/how-receive-child-support/texas-payment-card.
The next option is the use of Direct Deposit. This is another secure and convenient way to receive child support payments. Direct deposit allows payments to be paid straight to the parents’ bank accounts and eliminates the need to wait for a check that may end up lost or stolen. Parents who wish to apply for direct deposit must first fill a Direct Deposit Authorization Form. This can be accessed at https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/sites/default/files/files/child-support/forms/direct-deposit.pdf. Additional information on direct deposit is available at https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/child-support/paying-and-receiving-child-support/how-receive-child-support/direct-deposit.
Amount Receivable as Child Support
The OAG has a Child Support Review Process (CSRP) to establish or modify child support obligations. The CSRP usually takes place at the local Child Support Division office, involving both parents and a Child Support Officer. The meeting could be as long as 90 minutes, depending on factors that need to be addressed. If both parties agree to the conditions laid down, then the order is sent to a judge for final signature and approval. However, if the parents cannot come to an agreement on how much is adequate, the case would be sent to court for a hearing. Cases that involve one minor parent or domestic violence are also referred to the court for a hearing. In the court, the judge may consider factors like the parents’ incomes, the age of the child, the number of children, the costs of medical care, etc.
Alongside the child support order, medical and dental support orders can also be established for the case. For more details, visit https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/child-support/get-started/understanding-legal-process.
The Office of the Attorney General also offers a child support calculator at https://csapps.oag.texas.gov/monthly-child-support-calculator. This is provided for estimation purposes only and may not be the exact amount stated in the final order.
Enforcement of Child Support
When the noncustodial parent fails to pay support, there are usually consequences for the child. When payments are not made, the Office of the Attorney General may take certain actions to enforce the child support obligation. These actions include license suspension (driver’s, professional, hunting and fishing licenses), passport denials (new applications or renewals), lottery intercepts, credit bureau reporting, liens on properties, bank accounts, etc. In some cases, the OAG may file a contempt lawsuit against the noncustodial parent. This could result in a jail sentence for the parent. Further information on enforcement actions can be obtained at https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/child-support/child-support-enforcement/how-we-enforce.