Written by attorney Jordan E. Watson

Common Questions regarding Tarrant County Child Support Cases

The economy has been rough on everyone. I see this clearly every day, especially when it comes to child support, so here are some FAQs and Answers for your benefit.

1. I lost my job. Does this mean I can quit paying child support?

No. Absolutely not. In fact, that's the worst thing you can do. You should immediately file for a modification of your child support and in the meantime, make what payments you can. The State of Texas does not care that you have lost your job nor do they know, unless you tell them so. Continue to search for a job, and be prepared to search for jobs outside your comfort zone.

2. I can pay my ex in cash and that counts, right?

No, it does not. Unless you have a signed and dated receipt that states how much you paid and when, there's no way to prove that you paid and a Judge will not take your word for it. Your ex can be lying through his/her teeth and there's nothing an attorney can do about it, unless the ex has a sudden fit of conscience and confesses to lying. If you have no proof that you've paid, in the State's eyes, you didn't pay. Is that fair? No. But that's why the state has created something called the State Disbursement Unit, where you can send a money order with your case number on it, and it will be processed through the system, and you will get credit for making the payment. ALWAYS use the system. It's the only way to protect you.

3. They won't throw me in jail, will they?

Yes. They will. If you are behind on your support and you continue after repeated court hearings and actions to be behind, you will find yourself in jail. And while you are in jail, your child support will continue to accrue. Other penalties also include suspending your drivers license and your passport. Texas is serious about the penalties for not paying support and not particularly sympathetic about how that infringes on your ability to find employment. It's oddly counter productive, but it is the way the system is set up.

4. I have to make a full payment or no payment, right? No, if all you can make is a partial payment, you can make a partial payment. You'll still have arrears building, but making a good faith effort to make a partial payment is better in the State's eyes than not paying at all. Now, there is, however, a difference between making a $2.50 payment on a $250.00/month obligation and making a $150.00 payment on a $250.00/month obligation. Make a good faith effort, not a pathetic effort.

5. The Judges don't care about me or my job hunt, they just want my money.

Not true. Both Judges in the Tarrant County Title IV-D courts where you'll most likely appear are compassionate and willing to give second chances. They want you to get a job and be able to spend time with your family. However, they hear the same sob story every day. They also aren't miracle workers. They have to work within the laws of the State of Texas, so sometimes their hands are tied by statutes. They are willing to work with you as much as they can, but eventually, they have to enforce the law as required.

6. I don't have to pay child support because my baby momma just spends it all on herself.

That's not true. The parent receiving the support does not have to account for where it goes. Unless you pay her the support and then follow her and watch her hand it over to a drug dealer and you've captured this on tape, you're going to keep paying her support until you get custody of the children and she has to pay you support.

7. I can't afford an attorney and the Judge appointed some attorney to represent me. Are they a public defender?

No. They are not. They are a private attorney with their own business who has volunteered their time at a significantly reduced rate. Attorneys can choose whether or not to accept court appointments and it is not an obligation that they must do. So if you find yourself with a court appointed attorney, do not expect the worst of them, but instead realize that you may have just been granted access to excellent counsel you otherwise could not afford.

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