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My ex won’t pay child support. Now what?

My ex won’t pay child support. Now what?

            A child support order may be only half the battle. When a parent ordered to pay child support just won’t pay up, a child support obligee has a few legal tools he or she can use to try to persuade a stingy ex-spouse to meet the obligation. Below, I will discuss some of the available options

I.         Holding the obligor in contempt

            An obligor in arrears can be found in contempt of court through a motion to enforce if, at the time of the hearing, he or she is not current in making child support payments. See generally In re OAG, 422 S.W.3d 623 (Tex. 2013). A motion to hold the obligor in contempt requires the obligee to make specific allegations concerning the court order that was disobeyed, the date of each violation, and the amount due. Tex. Fam. Code § 157.002. The obligee must also state the amount actually paid, if any. Id.

            An obligor held in contempt can be incarcerated or placed on community supervision. Id. at § 157.211 et seq. The terms of community supervision may include financial counseling, payment of child support arrearages and all required child support, payment of court costs and attorney’s fees, and utilization of employment assistance services provided by the Texas Workforce Commission. Id. at § 157.211

II.       Child support lien on the obligor’s personal and real property

            Another option available to an obligee is to place a child support lien on the obligor’s property. See Tex. Fam. Code § 157.311 et seq. The lien can be placed on any non-homestead real property and any personal property allowed under the Texas Constitution including a bank account, a retirement plan, and the proceeds of an insurance policy. Id. at § 157.317. An obligee may bring an action to foreclose on the lien. Id. at § 157.323.

III. Suspension of the obligor’s licenses

            A third option is to seek to have the obligor’s license suspended. See Tex. Fam. Code § 232.001 et seq. The statute allows for the suspension of an obligor’s driver’s license as well as any other “license, certificate, registration, permit, or other authorization” issued by “a licensing authority” that is generally subject to “renewal, suspension, revocation, forfeiture, or termination.” Id. at § 232.001. Thus includes hunting, fishing, and concealed handgun licenses. Id. See also In re C.G., 261 S.W.3d 842 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2008, no pet.).

            Before a license may be suspended under this statute, the obligee must show that the obligor owes at least three months’ worth of back child support and has a court-ordered or agreed upon repayment schedule that he or she has failed to comply with. Tex. Fam. Code § 232.003. It is not enough that the obligor merely be in arrearages. In In re C.G., though the father owed more than three months’ worth of child support, there was no evidence that there was a repayment schedule and that the father had failed to make payments pursuant to that schedule. In re C.G., 261 S.W.3d at 849. As such, the trial court was not permitted to suspend the father’s licenses. Id.

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