Help!!!! They took my tax refund!!

If you are ordered to pay child support and fall behind, the Attorney General of Texas can intercept your IRS tax refund and apply it to the child support arrearage. This is only one remedy available for child support enforcement through the Attorney General of Texas.

The following are questions frequently asked by my clients regarding child support and fortunately, many services are available at no cost through the Attorney General. In the event you do not want to utilize their services, or want action taken very quickly, private attorneys can also provide child support enforcement assistance.

What if the noncustodial parent gets behind in child support payments or refuses to pay?

If a noncustodial parent does not pay child support, he or she is subject to enforcement measures to collect regular and past-due payments. The Child Support Division uses many techniques to enforce child support orders, including:

  • requiring employers to deduct court-ordered child support from the noncustodial parent’s paycheck through income withholding;
  • intercepting federal income tax refund checks, lottery winnings or other money due from state or federal sources;
  • filing liens against his or her property or other assets;
  • suspending driver’s, professional, and hunting and fishing licenses; and
  • filing a lawsuit against the noncustodial parent asking the court to enforce the order. A judge may sentence a nonpaying parent to jail and enter a judgment for past due child support.

Who can apply for child support services and what is the fee?

The Attorney General’s Office accepts applications from mothers, fathers and other individuals who request services. Our attorneys represent the State of Texas in providing child support services and do not represent either parent in the case. Customers do not have the right to select what enforcement actions are taken in their cases. The Office of the Attorney General is required to provide all appropriate services for the benefit of the children. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and certain Medicaid recipients automatically receive child support services after they are certified for public assistance. Persons who do not receive TANF or Medicaid must apply for child support services. There is no charge to apply for child support services. Many services are provided at no cost.

Who is affected by the license suspension law?

Noncustodial parents who hold a state license, owe more than three months of past-due child support, and are not in compliance with an existing court-ordered or voluntary repayment schedule face license suspension. What types of licenses are usually suspended? Most adults have a driver’s license. Computer matches can determine which obligors have other licenses and permits ranging from medical, dental and law licenses to hunting and fishing licenses.

How many licensing agencies are involved?

The statute identifies 60 licensing agencies. However, this list is not exclusive. For example, “licensing authority” includes political subdivisions and any other board or agency not listed by name. How does the process work? The Attorney General’s Child Support Division electronically matches its caseload with other state agencies that are responsible for issuing licenses. When the match shows that a parent who meets the statutory criteria for license suspension holds one or more of the identified licenses, the Office of the Attorney General will send the license holder a warning and provide an opportunity to resolve the outstanding delinquency. If the parent fails to respond, the Child Support Division will confirm his or her location and other information necessary to suspend the license and then refer the case for administrative or judicial prosecution.

Can a parent take custody of the child instead of making child support payments?

Both parents must provide for the child, no matter which parent has primary custody. Child support is normally paid to the custodial parent for the benefit of the child. Legal custody can be changed, but only if the parents go to court to modify the previous child support order and establish a child support amount for the new noncustodial parent.

Does the Office of the Attorney General handle custody and visitation disputes?

Federal regulations do not allow the Office of the Attorney General to use child support funding to provide legal services for custody or visitation disputes. The attorney general encourages mediation of these issues, and most cases are resolved by agreement.

[1] Attorney General of Texas, Frequently Asked Questions about Child Support