In 2009, the top 10 overdue child support culprits in Texas owed more than $500,000 in collective payments and interest to their children. One parent alone owed over $130,000 in support for his two children. In March of this year, an ABC report noted that the most wanted list of child support evaders, published by the Office of the Attorney General, owed over $1 million in delinquent payments, with the top offender owing more than $160,000.
According to the Office of the Attorney General’s Child Support Division, Texas law requires the Office of the Attorney General to develop and maintain a program designed to publicly identify those who are delinquent in child support payments. The pertinent section of the Family Code notes that the program, “shall include the displaying of photographs and profiles of obligors in public and private locations.” It also states that the OAG can use, “posters, the news media, and other cost-effective methods to display photographs and profiles” of parents who are in arrears on child support payments.
As a result, the OAG has developed the Most Wanted Child Support Evader list to help locate and hold those parents accountable for back support payments. This list is periodically distributed to local media outlets and displayed on the Attorney General’s website in hopes that it will raise public awareness and generate new leads to find these offenders.
The OAG website notes that to be considered an “evader” and have his or her name added to the list, the non-custodial parent must:
- Be over $5,000 delinquent in court ordered payments
- Have a warrant out for his or her arrest
- Have his or her location unknown
- Not have made any payments in the last six months
- Not currently be involved in bankruptcy proceedings or receiving welfare benefits
The custodial parent must also sign a confidentiality waiver allowing certain information to be made public. According to Attorney General Greg Abbott, over 100 people have been arrested as a result of this program since its inception in December 2002.
Modification of an Existing Agreement
With the current economic conditions, many who are required to pay child support have difficulty coming up with enough money to cover what they owe. For those who have financial trouble, the biggest mistake to make is ignoring court-ordered obligations.
It may be possible to modify the agreement if there has been a “material and substantial change in circumstances.” Typically, this involves an increase or decrease in the income of the non-custodial parents. It can also involve changes to the child’s living arrangements and insurance coverage among others.
Even if you are in the process of modifying the agreement or have reached an informal agreement with your ex-spouse, it is important to keep paying your current obligations, as only by order of the court can the amount of support be changed.
These same economic conditions, however, equally affect the parent who needs the financial support to raise the child. The Child Support Division (CSD) of the Attorney General’s Office uses an aggressive approach to collect past due support. The CSD can require employers to deduct support from paychecks, file liens against property and assets, and suspend driver’s licenses. The CSD can also file a suit against the noncustodial parent and ask the court to enforce the order. A parent behind on his or her support payments can even face jail time.
Working with an Experienced Attorney
Modifying and enforcing an existing agreement can be a technical and complex process. Whether you owe back due child support or need help enforcing a court ordered payment. It is best to work with an experienced family law attorney who can protect you and your child’s interests.