| Nine out of every ten children on welfare are entitled to child support and do not receive those payments; $18 billion in accumulated unpaid child support is owed to these youngsters. For those able to work, there is no acceptable excuse for failing to support their own children. Problems with custody, visitation, and other financial obligations are unacceptable excuses. Withholding support payments to strike back at an ex-spouse only steals food from a child's mouth. Non-support is a crime against children which must be stopped, and those who commit this crime should be punished accordingly. Surprising to most, statistics show that non-custodial mothers were about 10% less likely to pay their court-ordered share of the cost of raising their children than their male counterparts.|
Solution #1, "Hiring a lawyer" is out of the question for those who don't have enough money to care for their children. Have you noticed lawyers trying to help the needy?
Solution #2, "Hiring a collection agency" costs you $20 to $100 and 20% to 30% of what they recover.
Solution #3, "The Texas Attorney General" doesn't work well because of the backlog of cases they already have. They can take up to six years to get the job done.
The Child Support Enforcement Division of the Texas Attorney General's Office is helping nearly 700,000 Texas women in their quest to collect child support payments. Almost 20 percent of the women, nearly 140,000, are from the Houston area. With State agency workers each carrying a case load of approximately 1,200 files, it is no wonder why some parents can avoid their legal and moral obligations for up to six years.
A 1990 U.S. Census Bureau report revealed that half of the American men required to pay child support paid less than ordered, and one fourth paid nothing at all. It is anticipated that the numbers will get worse before they improve because of the ever increasing budget cuts and restrictions our lawmakers impose on us. Therefore our children suffer because we don't have sufficient money allotted to locate and collect from the millions of irresponsible parents across our nation. These are the reasons that demand for child support enforcement assistance from the private sector is increasing rapidly.
Collecting child support can be tough, but it can be and needs to be done when there is problem meeting a child support obligation of a divorce decree or other Court Order.
In Texas, pending the granting of a divorce, the Courts establish "Temporary Orders". These orders are for the "temporary" custody of, visitation to, and support of children. The proce¬dures, forms, language, and grounds for modification of "Temporary Orders" are different from those in this book.
Solution #4, "Do It Yourself" - that's what this website was written for! It is NOT written for anyone to use as a tool to harass or threaten another party or to waste the Court's time with frivolous actions and filings. The Courts can and will impose harsh sanctions for filing motions considered frivolous because they lack a substantial, legitimate cause of action!
SERVICES AVAILABLE FROM THE ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE
Child Support Enforcement Services are automatically provided to persons receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) or Medicaid benefits. Persons not receiving these benefits may also apply for these services. The toll free number is (800) 252-3515.
Although federal regulations do not allow the AG to intervene in custody or visitation issues, the AG encourages the involvement of both parents in each child's life. A child needs the love and support of both parents, so he or she can grow into a productive adult. The AG provides two kinds of Child Support Services:
1. Full child support enforcement, and
2. Locate only.
This service is available for applicants needing the full range of child support services. There is no fee for these services. The services include:
1. Locating a non-custodial parent
2. Establishing paternity
3. Establishing and enforcing child support orders
4. Establishing and enforcing medical support orders
5. Collecting and distributing child support payments
You may apply for full child support enforcement services if you are a resident of Texas and:! You are a parent or legal guardian and the child(ren) lives with you.
1. You are not a parent, but the child(ren) has lived with you for at least six months.
2. You have a court order for child support, but the child(ren) no longer lives with you.
For full child support enforcement services, complete the application form and send it to the CSED office:
Child Support Enforcement Services
6161 Savoy, Ste. 320
Houston, Texas 77036
LOCATING THE NON-PAYOR
Okay, you know your children deserve the child support, but in order to get the money you must find the absent parent -- and you know you will need to file contempt charges and have papers served (service of process) on him/her to have your court order enforced.
You must know the location of the absent parent's place of employment, income and assets to obtain court enforcement. If the employer is known, payroll deduction can be utilized. If bank accounts or other assets are located, you can collect current or back support payments. An investigation is necessary to determine the absent parent's whereabouts and assets.
The Texas Attorney General's Office:
The AG offers a "locate only" service for locating the non-custodial parent. The State Parent Locator Service will get information from various sources to help you in locating the non-custodial parent. When they receive the locate information (they are required to do the locate within 75 days), it will be sent to you. The State Parent Locator Service is not responsible for verifying the locate information before they send it to you. With this information, you may not be able to locate the non-custodial parent; and pursue your case in court yourself (pro se).
The Fee for Texas State Locate Only Services is $20.
Title IV-D (4-D) of the Federal Social Security Act of 1975 established a local IV-D child support agency such as this in every U.S. state and jurisdiction. The State Parent Locator Service in Texas (as in other states) has access to the following types of records:
IRS, Social Security, motor vehicle departments, Veterans Administration, Department of Defense, credit bureaus, real estate, voter registration, criminal records, postal records, and loan companies.
Payment must be made by cashier's check or money order (no personal checks or cash) made payable to: Office of the Attorney General/PLS.
You may apply for locate only services if you are a resident of Texas and:
1. You are a parent or legal guardian with legal custody of the child(ren).
2. You are a parent or guardian and are currently in the process of getting a child support order.
3. You are not a parent, but the child(ren) has lived with you for at least six months.
For locate only services, complete the application form (see appendix for Texas forms) and send it with the required locate fee to:
Office of the Texas Attorney General
Child Support Enforcement Division
State Parent Locate Service
P.O. Box 12017
Austin, Texas 78711-2017
Collection agencies use the State Parent Locate Service as a matter of course. They do this by charging $20 to $95, having their client sign a form letter (see form letters) and forwarding the $20 fee along with the necessary forms to the State Parent Locate Service. Since the Collection Agency can not file Contempt charges for you -- they contact the non-payor (usually by phone). This "tips off" the non payor, who may "skip" again. We believe better results will be obtained if you locate the non-payor yourself, through the Locator Service; and immediately have a suit served on him/her for Contempt of Court. They must then appear in Court, or face arrest and jail.
OTHER RESOURCES FOR LOCATING YOUR EX-SPOUSE
ACES Member's Search: Members of The Association For Children For Enforcement Of Support, Inc. (see Forms for membership application) may request the following services (see Forms section for ACES Locate Request):
1. Name & Address Search which includes TRW Credit Bureau, city directories, court systems, and credit guarantors $5.00
2. Social Security Search $5.00
You can also do much of the investigation on your own, even though state child support agencies are required to do investigation to help you locate an absent parent.
Keep a list of information about the absent parent handy and update it periodically. You may need to locate the absent parent more than once before you successfully collect child support. Persistence pays -- sometimes, quite handsomely.
Some types of resources to help you locate the absent parent are available at your local library. These include telephone directories from cities in your area as well as those of cities throughout the U.S. City directories list occupation, place of employment, addresses and phone numbers.
"Backwards" directories, or R. L. Polk directories, also include listings by phone numbers that show the address where the phone is located. Government offices and private agencies including the Recorder's Office, Voter Registration, Department of Motor Vehicles, Post Office, Secretary of State, occupational/professional organizations, trade unions, high schools, trade schools or colleges, and military locator services, offer further options.
Recorder's Office: Lists deeds (ownership) to property.
Treasurer's Office And/Or Property Tax Office: Lists values of property.
Fishing and Hunting Licenses/Bureaus: Used as a source in some states that centralize these records in a county or state office.
Voter Registration: These records are open to the public and list home addresses.
Department of Motor Vehicles: In most states, for approximately $3.00, the Department will provide you with an address and a list of vehicles registered in the name of the absent parent.
Send them a written request for the information and be sure to include the absent parent's full name, last known address, date of birth, and social security number (if known). You can do this even if you live in one state and the absent parent's last known address is in another state. Send the request to the state of the non-payor's last known address.
1. Ask for the person's current address; else:
2. Send an envelope addressed to the person's last known address registered mail. On the envelope, write DO NOT FORWARD/ADDRESS CORRECTION REQUESTED; else:
3. Pick up a subpoena form from the county clerk's office. Type in person's name, address, and information on the form. Go to the Post Office and and explain to the clerk you need an address to serve the subpoena.
For a $1.00 fee, the U.S. Postal Service will do a postal verification. This service takes about two weeks. The Post Office will inform you if the absent parent regularly receives mail at any address you ask them to check. The absent parent is not informed by the Post Office that their address is being verified.
Secretary of State: Keeps records of corporations within the state and home-based foreign corporations that are located in a different state but registered within the state in question. These records include addresses of the corporations and a listing of corporate officers or registered agent(s).
Occupational and Professional License Bureaus: Have listings of addresses and places of employment. These could include doctors, nurses, pharmacists, insurance agents, stock brokers, etc. Also, some state organizations for professionals may be able to verify a place of employment or provide you with information to contact an absent parent.
The Personnel Office: "Hello, this is Mike Good-Guy at Jay-Mark Chevrolet. We need to verify employment, income and residence on James Skip-Out for a loan." OR: "Hello Mr. Skip-Out, this is Suzie Sweetheart in Personnel, we need to verify some information for the insurance plan."
Delivery Man Routine: Go to the neighbors (or past neighbors) door with a package addressed to the person you are looking for in your hands. Make sure the package is personally addressed. Explain it is an urgent delivery and you must find the person. Ask for phone numbers or new address (ask other neighbors as well). Ask for name and address of a relative or close friend who you could leave the package with. Do this early or late in the day so that the neighbors will be home.
It is imperative that all phone calls used (in gathering information on a "Skip" -- like all conversations made with spouses who are depriving you of Visitation -- be taped for later transcription, to present in court. Remember: You must PROVE all your allegations to the Judge.
Trade Unions: Can provide a list of companies currently employing union members. This can assist you in verifying the place of employment of an absent person. Union records which show when union dues were payroll-deducted can be subpoenaed and used in court to show a work record and the ability to pay support.
"On-Line" Databases: Below are listed two companies which can be contacted either by phone or computer modem. For a fee, they will take the name and birthdate of any individual and run a driver's license check in all 50 states. If your ex-spouse has left Texas, and moved to California; you can probably get an address on him/her in a matter of minutes:
1. Data Search, Inc., 3600 American River Drive, Sacramento, CA 95825; phone: (916) 485-3282.
2. V.O.S., P.O. Box 15334, Sacramento, CA 95813; phone: (916) 451-8475.
AID TO FAMILIES WITH DEPENDENT CHILDREN (AFDC)
If you are receiving aid from the State through AFDC, you signed an "Authorization for Child/Medical Support Services." This form allows the State to collect your child support and keep all but $50 each month - as long as you receive AFDC. No matter how much the State collects; you will receive only $50 (known as the "disregard payment." The rest goes to the State as a repayment for the AFDC payments you receive. If you receive child support payments directly, you must forward them to the State; or AFDC will lower your grant.
You can collect child support even if you were never married. To do this you must establish who the legal father is through a Paternity Suit. This may be done utilizing the Pro Se Series Manual - Paternity Suits in Texas. If the alleged father admits the child is his, a support order may be obtained fairly quickly. If the alleged father denies the child, then the case may take longer - it is not always possible to get a court order in this type of case.
If you are still married (and have no support order), the AG can not help you obtain a divorce. You will have to file for divorce yourself (pro se) or retain an attorney.
CHILD SUPPORT COLLECTIONS FROM PRIVATE INDUSTRY
It appears to most that the only solution for most parents is to seek the aid of a Child Support Collection Agency! Why?
! State agencies are hopelessly backlogged with cases.
! Private attorneys are too expensive for those who need support assistance.
! Most parents have no idea they can, with the use of the State Parent Locator Service, file charges for themselves in court "pro se", and collect child support without the further aid of state agencies or collection agencies.
Most states have a tremendous burden on their system. Therefore, it could literally be years before a parent is forced to be responsible. It is estimated that in Texas each case worker for the Attorney General's Child Support Enforcement office handles approximately 1,200 files. Private firms can increase their staff or use outside collection agencies to speed up the processing of claims for their clients.
Who May Use Child Support Collection Agencies?
Any custodial parent/guardian who has a court ordered child support obligation that is currently past due. These agencies do not accept AFDC cases.
Why not use these agencies? Because they charge between $20 and $95 for interview and completion of application. These Child Support Collection Agencies also retain 20% to 30% of the arrears collected. In all fairness, though, if they are unsuccessful in assisting in collections, there is no additional fee to the client.
These private agencies make no guarantees to collect support payments. However, since the majority of their income is derived from collected support - they make every effort to collect support payments for you.
The Supreme Court has ruled that when collecting child support, these agencies are not regulated by the Federal Debt Collection Act; but then, neither are you, if you are "pro se." This means that you both are at liberty to contact a non-custodial parent's:
If the non-custodial parent can not afford to pay the full amount of back child support -you may go to Mediation and Arbitration proceedings to get a schedule he or she can afford.
You can attach non-exempt property and garnish bank accounts. If these and other measures do not work, you alone (not the collection agency) have the option of filing a "motion for contempt" in the Family Court. If the non-custodial parent is found in contempt by the court, the District Attorney may recommend a jail sentence.
WHO MAY REPRESENT THEMSELVES PRO SE (SELF REPRESENTATION)
According to the law, you may file your own motions and represent yourself in court. If you have received a court order for support through divorce or a paternity suit, you may request a contempt of court hearing, wage withholding, judgment, etc. by completing proper court petitions (examples for Texas are included in the appendix. If you have not received a court order for support, you may obtain this order through a divorce or paternity suit -- also filed by yourself without the attorney general's office or a private attorney.
By representing yourself in court you avoid paying 20% to 30% to a collection agency, which can easily amount to a great deal of money. You also avoid waiting on a hopelessly backlogged state agency. You collect more support -- and you collect it faster.
You are at liberty to contact the non-custodial parent's:
If the non-custodial parent can not afford to pay the full amount of back child support -you may go with the non-custodial parent to Mediation and Arbitration proceedings to get a schedule he or she can afford.
You may file this "motion for contempt" in the Family Court "pro se" (without an attorney and attach non-exempt property, and garnish bank accounts. If the non-custodial parent is found in contempt by the court, the District Attorney may recommend a jail sentence.
Petitions, Motions & Decrees/Orders
A Petition is the lawsuit. A Petition is nothing more than a complaint filed in a Court of law saying that the Petitioner has been done wrong by someone and that the Petitioner is asking the Court to hear the problem and make a decision/ruling. It is the first instrument filed to start the proceedings.
A Motion for Contempt reopens your divorce case and advises the court that they orders they decreed have not been adhered to by one of the parties. The court may take action to insure the decree is enforced, modify the decree, and/or punish parties who have not complied with the decree.
An Order is what a Court/Judge gives the parties to a lawsuit after all the facts have been presented. The Order instructs the parties on what they may or may not, can or can not do in regards to the complaint filed. In family law matters, after the Court hands down its ruling, issues a "Decree" in which the parties are to live by in regards to custody of children, visitation rights and child support. The "Decree" is what you and the other party are to live by in regards to your child(ren) and all related issues.
The Residency Requirements
To be able to file your Original Petition you will have to meet certain residency requirements for the State of Texas. These requirements are:
1). You must be a domiciliary of the State of Texas for at least six (6) months, and
2). You must be a resident of the county in which you live for at least ninety (90) days.
Child Support Guidelines
Pursuant to Section 14.055 of the Texas Family Code, the guidelines for the amount ordered for the support of children within Texas is:
1 child 20% of the Obligor's Net Resources
2 children 25% of the Obligor's Net Resources
3 children 30% of the Obligor's Net Resources
4 children 35% of the Obligor's Net Resources
5+children Not less than the amount for 4 children
Determining "Net Resources"
In determining the "net resources" of the Possessory Conservator or Obligor (the person ordered to pay child support) you should subtract from your/their gross salary:
1). Social Security, and
2). Federal Income Tax.
For an in depth definition of "net resources" consult the Texas Family Code, Section 14.053(b) and all relevant sections. Also, the Tax Charts for determining a child support obligation follow Section 14.053. These charts give a GROSS monthly wage dollar amount starting at $100.00 - $12,000, minus Social Security Taxes and Federal Income Taxes to arrive at a bottom-line number that is your/theirs "Net Monthly Income" from which child support should be taxed against the Obligor. There are two charts in the TFC, one for employed persons and one for self-employed persons.
Doing The Paperwork
There are two documents respectively to Contempt actions:
1). The "Motion to Enforce Child-Support Order; and
2). The "Notice of Hearing.
Filing and Serving Documents
Let us distinguish the difference between filing and serving documents. Filing is nothing more than the physical act of going to the Courthouse and filing paperwork with a clerk at a window and paying filing fees.
Note: Always make 3 copies of what ever you will be filing. At the window, file the original and one copy and ask the clerk to "file stamp" the other copies for your records.
Serving documents is the act of letting the other party to a lawsuit know that a complaint or request or something of that nature has been filed with the Court. Wouldn't you want to know there was a case in a Court of law pending against you? Service can be accomplished in several different ways by: Waiver of Citation; personal, hand delivery of documents on file by a Constable, Sheriff or private process server; Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested; and, public notice.
Service of Citation:
CONSTABLE OR SHERIFF:
If the other party is not in agreement with the Paternity action and will not sign the Waiver, the only other option is to have the Respondent served. You will have to state in your Original Petition that the Respondent can be served with Citation at work, home or any other location where Respondent can be found. You will pay the required fees for service by a Constable or Sheriff when you file the Petition.
PRIVATE SERVICE OF PROCESS
According to Rule 103, Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, anyone over the age of 18 and who is not a party to a legal action may serve the Citation, with prior approval of the Court, for the Petitioner or Movant.
You may find a private process server in the yellow pages or you may have a friend serve the Citation with prior approval of the Court. A 103 Order is in the forms section of this book for use if you choose a private process server. You will have to state in your Original Petition that a private process server is requested pursuant to Rule 103 and submit the Order when filing your paperwork.
When a person (the Respondent) is served with a lawsuit, regardless of who does the serving, he/she has until 10:00 a.m. on the Monday following the expiration of twenty (20) days to file a written answer with the Court. If a person gets served on a Monday, then the next day, Tuesday, will be the first day of the twenty (20) days allowed. So, if Tuesday is the first day, count nineteen (19) more days, including weekends. The deadline will be at 10:00 a.m. on the Monday following these twenty (20) days. If the person (Respondent) does not answer by the deadline, call an attorney and ask him/her about getting a default judgment against the Respondent.
1. Do skip-trace and collect evidence;
2. Send letter and negotiate with ex-spouse if possible;
3. Prepare the Motion for Contempt;
4. Attach the Notice of Hearing and affidavit;
5. Attach a copy of your decree to the Motion;
6. Mark decree "Exhibit 'A'";
7. Get the Affidavit notarized and sign the Motion;
8. Make 3 copies of the paperwork;
9. File the original and 1 copy of the Motion and pay the appropriate fees, file the 103 Order if necessary and get file-stamped copies of everything filed;
10. Wait for him/her to be served and respond with a written answer;
11. Gather all necessary evidence to support your claim and prepare financial statement;
12. Request a hearing from the Court, prepare the "Order Setting A Hearing Date" form if necessary and get hearing two weeks from the date of your request;
13. Negotiate with ex-spouse or his/her attorney;
14. Prepare the Order or see if opposing counsel will prepare it;
15. Prepare presentation for the hearing and rehearse several times;
16. Go to hearing and give the best possible presentation to the Court;
17. Submit the Order to the Court for signing.
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
Decree of Divorce
An Order rendered by a Court called a "Decree" that sets out in specifics the dissolution of a marriage, child support, visitation rights, custody of children, division of the marital estate etc.
The power to act in an official capacity in a manner which appears to be just and proper under the circumstances.
Joint Managing Conservator
When both parents share in the parental rights. Legal domicile; access to, and possession of, the child(ren); and child support must still be decided. See Section 14.021, Texas Family Code.
The actual power of the Court to make and enforce orders over the parties to a lawsuit.
The person who has legal custody and all parental rights regarding the child(ren). See Section 14.02, Texas Family Code.
The formal mode in which a party may make an application to a Court after the original petition has been filed.
The person thats makes an application to a Court.
The person entitled to receive child support payments.
The person required to make child support payments.
A ruling that instructs the parties to a legal action on what can or cannot, may or may not be done by a party.
The first instrument filed to begin preceedings in a Court of law.
The person who files a Petition in a Court of law seeking some sort of remedy or relief.
The person that does not have legal custody of child(ren); few, if any parental right concerning the child(ren); and usually required to pay child support. See Section 14.03, Texas Family Code.
Private Process Server
One who is not a Constable or Sheriff, that is over the age of 18 years and who is not a party to a legal action, authorized by a Court to hand serve process on one that is entitled to notice under law of a proceeding taking place in a Court
Deliverance from, wrong, or injustice. Redress or, or benefit which a complaintant seeks at the hands of a court, particularly in equity.
The person to whom a lawsuit or motion gets filed against.