In proceedings involving children, the Child Support Division of the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) is responsible for enforcing child support laws to aid families across the state of Texas. In addition to enforcing child support orders, the OAG collaborates with other agencies to establish paternity, promote the involvement of both parents, and works to obtain additional medical and financial assistance for dependent children.
As a state agency, the Attorney General is responsible for providing services to children in order to meet their needs to the fullest extent, and they do not represent the guardian that is filing. Moreover, the OAG is required to accept all applications from families that request child support services such as: paternity establishment, Child Support Review Process (CSRP) modification, and locating a missing parent, etc. Custody and visitation disputes cannot be resolved through the OAG’s legal proceedings under federal regulations and requires separate legal representation.
To begin, a parent can apply in-person through the Office of the Attorney General field offices scattered across Texas or they can begin their process online at https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/. Copies of documents that are requested by the OAG include:
- Divorce decree or separation agreement/court order for child support
- Acknowledgment of paternity
- Birth certificates of the dependent children
- Paycheck stubs, tax returns, bank statements, etc. of both parents
- Previous history of child support payments
In order to begin the issuance of child support, the OAG must first locate the noncustodial parent and establish paternity if the parents in question were not married at the time of the child’s birth. In the case of married parents, paternity has already been established. If the noncustodial parent’s location is unknown, the Office of Attorney General will request for the applicant to provide any information about the noncustodial parent’s former employer, names and addresses of family and friends, bank/utility companies they were known to utilize, and other personal information to locate them. After the noncustodial parent is identified, they can choose whether or not to dispute the paternity establishment through a DNA test. The OAG can establish paternity for biological parents in three ways: a voluntary paternity establishment, an agreed paternity order, or a court-ordered paternity. These three steps involve a AOP, acknowledgment of paternity, which both parties can sign in order to establish legal rights over the child.
The next step of the Child Support Review Process (CSRP), includes the establishment, or modification, of child support. After paternity is established, both parties are often directed to a local Child Support Division office where they will negotiate child support for up to 90 minutes. If a negotiation is reached, the order will be sent to a judge for a final signature. If a negotiation is not reached, the child support case will be scheduled for a hearing. Before the hearing, both parties will be asked to consult with a Child Support Officer to negotiate new terms for a child support order that can be agreed upon. If an agreement is reached, the new order will be presented to a judge for a final signature. If no agreement is reached, the Child Support Officer will present their case to the court and have the judge decide on the final order.The amount of time before child support is officially deducted begins when the support order says it begins. Around eighty percent of these deductions are paid through payroll deductions and can take up to six weeks for the noncustodial parent’s employer to process the payroll. Parents can make payments directly via https://tx.smartchildsupport.com/, MoneyGram or a TouchPay kiosk if they opt-out against payroll deductions or the order goes into effect before their payroll is processed. From there, the payment is recorded by the Office of Attorney General and sent to the custodial parent via direct deposit or through a Texas Payment card.
If a parent refuses to comply with the child support order, the Office of Attorney General has the power to notify credit reporting agencies, suspend licenses, deny passport renewals, enforce civil contempt, and more. These consequences are typically issued after a parent has refused to pay child support for at least three months and has been given the chance to create a repayment schedule. The Office of Attorney General reserves the right to charge a parent with criminal contempt if payments have not been regularly made in the past six months and the parent is actively avoiding apprehension. In these cases, the evader is sentenced to jail until they comply with the order, pay a certain amount back, or be asked to pay all of the child support due.