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Role of Texas Attorney General in Child Support Cases [2023]

When a parent has issues with child support in Texas, they often turn to the Texas Attorney General’s Office for help. The Texas Attorney General is the state’s chief law enforcement officer and is responsible for establishing and enforcing child support orders and ensuring that parents are providing financial support for their children.

In this article, we discuss the role of the Office of the Texas Attorney General in child support cases, what they will (and will not do), and the advantages of hiring a private attorney in a child support case. 

The Role of the Texas Attorney General – in General 

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) in Texas serves as the chief legal and law enforcement office for the state. Led by the Texas Attorney General, the OAG has various responsibilities and functions that help protect and serve the citizens of Texas. While the primary purpose of this article is to explain the role of the Texas Attorney General in child support cases, we thought it was important to first give you an overview of the OAG in general. In Texas, the OAG:

  • Represents the state in civil litigation
    The OAG defends the state’s legal interests in civil lawsuits, either by representing state agencies or officials or by initiating legal action on behalf of the state.
  • Provides legal advice to state agencies and officials
    The Attorney General issues legal opinions to guide state agencies, officials, and, in some cases, local governments on matters related to Texas law and the Constitution.
  • Criminal prosecutions and appeals
    The OAG assists local prosecutors in handling complex criminal cases and represents the state in criminal appeals, particularly in death penalty cases.
  • Enforcing consumer protection laws
    The OAG investigates and takes legal action against individuals or businesses engaged in fraudulent, deceptive, or unlawful practices that harm Texas consumers.
  • Protecting the rights of vulnerable citizens
    The OAG works to safeguard the rights and well-being of vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, disabled, and victims of human trafficking.
  • Environmental protection
    The Attorney General’s office enforces environmental laws and regulations to protect the state’s natural resources and public health.
  • Child support enforcement
    The Texas Attorney General’s Child Support Division helps parents establish, enforce, and modify child support orders to ensure that children receive the financial support they need.

These are just a few examples of the wide range of responsibilities and duties performed by the Office of the Attorney General in Texas. The OAG works closely with federal, state, and local authorities to uphold the law and ensure the safety and well-being of all Texans. As mentioned, this article will deal primarily with the role of the attorney general in child support cases.

The Role of the Texas Attorney General in Child Support Cases

The Texas Attorney General’s office has a Child Support Division, which is responsible for helping parents establish and enforce child support orders. The Division’s primary goal is to ensure that children receive the financial support they need from their parents. This is achieved by working with parents to establish paternity, calculate child support, establish child support orders, and enforce those orders when necessary. Here’s an overview of the various roles of the Texas Attorney General in child support cases.

Establishment of Paternity

Before a child support order can be issued, paternity must be established. This involves determining who the biological father of the child is. The Texas Attorney General’s office can help establish paternity by filing a paternity lawsuit and ordering a DNA test. Paternity can be established voluntarily with an Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) form. 

Establishing Child Support Orders

Once paternity is established, the Texas Attorney General’s office can help establish a child support order. This order will outline the amount of child support that must be paid, how often it must be paid, and how it will be paid. Child support is typically determined by considering the non-custodial parent’s income, the number of children involved, and other relevant factors. The Attorney General’s office ensures that the child support amount is fair and consistent with state law.

Enforcement of Child Support Orders

If a parent fails to pay child support, the Texas Attorney General’s office can take legal action to enforce the child support order. This may include wage garnishment, seizure of assets, suspension of a driver’s license or professional license, and even jail time.

Modification of Child Support Orders

If there is a material and substantial change in the circumstances of either parent, the child support order may need to be modified. The Texas Attorney General’s office can help parents modify child support orders when necessary. Common reasons for modification include a change in income, the child’s needs, or other significant life events.

Enforcing Child Support Across State Lines Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA)

The Texas Attorney General’s Office helps enforce the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), which ensures that child support orders are recognized and enforced across state lines.  Cooperation between states helps ensure that children receive the support they need, regardless of where their parents reside.

 What the Texas Attorney General Does Not Do

In Texas, the Office of the Attorney General generally does not handle most family law matters beyond child support enforcement. This means that the office does not handle:

  • Divorce proceedings: The OAG does not handle divorce proceedings, property or asset division, or spousal support (alimony.)
  • Custody and visitation: The OAG does not decide custody arrangements or intervene in disputes or visitation issues.
  • Mediations: The OAG does not provide mediation services for family law cases. In some cases, the Attorney General’s office may facilitate negotiations between parties to reach an agreement on child support, but this is not the same as formal mediation. Parties may choose to work with a private mediator or seek assistance from the court system to resolve their disputes.
  • Private agreements: The OAG does not get involved with private agreements between parents.
  • Legal Advice: The OAG does not provide legal advice to parents. They can only provide general information about child support laws and procedures.

Other family law matters that the Attorney General’s office typically does not handle in Texas include adoption, guardianship, and termination of parental rights. These types of cases are typically handled by private family law attorneys and through the court system in the county where a case is filed.

The Process for Obtaining Child Support through the Texas OAG

The process for obtaining help with a child support issue through the Texas Office of Attorney General (OAG) typically involves several steps:

  1. Application for child support services: The custodial parent (or caretaker) must first apply for child support services through the OAG. This can be done online or in person at a local OAG office.

  2. Establishing paternity: If paternity has not already been established, the OAG will initiate the legal process to establish paternity. This may involve genetic testing and a court hearing to establish legal paternity.

  3. Determining child support: Once paternity has been established, the OAG will work with both parents to determine the appropriate amount of child support based on state guidelines. The OAG may also seek to modify an existing child support order if circumstances have changed.

  4. Enforcement of child support: If the noncustodial parent does not pay child support as ordered by the court, the OAG will take legal action to enforce the order. This may involve wage garnishment, intercepting tax refunds or other sources of income, or even taking legal action to hold the non-compliant parent in contempt of court.

  5. Closing the case: Once child support is being paid as ordered by the court, the OAG will continue to monitor the case and enforce the order as needed. The case will be closed if the child reaches the age of majority or if the court orders the case to be closed.

Why Parents Go Through Texas Attorney General’s Office in Child Support Cases

The Texas Attorney General’s Child Support Division provides services to parents or legal guardians who require assistance in obtaining child support payments or establishing paternity for a child. There are usually two main reasons a parent chooses to use the Attorney General’s office for child support cases instead of hiring a private attorney for various reasons:

Affordability

The services provided by the Texas Attorney General’s Child Support Division are generally more affordable than those of a private attorney. There may be little or no cost involved, making it a more accessible option for lower-income families.

Convenience

Some individuals find it more convenient to work with the Attorney General’s office, rather than seek out a private attorney.

Services provided by the Texas Attorney General’s Child Support Division are not suitable for everyone. Many people prefer the personalized attention and representation offered by a private attorney, or they may have complex cases that require specialized legal expertise.

Advantages to Hiring a Private Attorney for Child Support Cases

While the Texas Attorney General’s office provides services for parents involved in child support cases, there are several advantages to hiring a private attorney including: 

Legal Advice

The OAG does not give legal advice. Because they don’t represent the interests of either party – but rather, the state of Texas – they don’t give legal advice about your particular situation. This means that they also may make decisions that are not necessarily in line with your preferences. You truly are just a number.

Personalized Attention

A private attorney will provide personalized legal advice and representation, as well as help navigate the legal process and represent you in court. A private attorney can also help ensure that your rights are protected and that you receive a fair outcome in your case. Examples of cases where a private attorney would be helpful include complex child support cases involving multiple children, cases where there are issues with paternity, and cases where there are significant changes in the financial situation of one or both parents.

Quicker Resolutions

The OAG handles a huge volume of child support cases and it may take a very long time for a resolution on the case. A private attorney may be able to get your case on the docket and resolved must faster than waiting in line with a backlog of OAG cases. 

Advocate for a Wide Range of Family Law Matters

The OAG’s primary responsibility is to enforce child support payment. They do not handle non child-support issues, such as child custody or visitation, which often overlap in family law disputes. An attorney can advocate for you on a wide range of issues, not just child support.

Prepare You for Court

Child support cases with the OAG’s office are heard in a IV-D court, which is a special court that handles cases related to the enforcement of child support orders. Hundreds of cases are heard every week in IV-D courts, including in Tarrant County. If you don’t have a private attorney, you will be attending IV-D court without legal counsel, which can be very daunting and nerve-wracking. A private attorney can make sure that you have the necessary documentation and adequately prepare you so that you know what to expect.

 Need Help with Your OAG Child Support Case? Contact Us.

If you are involved in a child support case that stemmed from the Texas Attorney General’s Office, it is important to understand the process. But don’t go it alone. Hiring a private attorney can provide personalized legal advice and representation. We can help. Our team of  experienced family law attorneys will be with you every step of the way and will work diligently to produce the most favorable outcome possible as quickly and efficiently as possible.  Call  Varghese Summersett Family Law Group today at (817) 900-3220 or contact us online.

FAQs About OAG Child Support Cases

If your child support case was initially handled by a local court in Texas, it’s possible that the Texas Attorney General’s Child Support Division may still be involved in enforcing and managing the child support order. When a court order for child support is established, the order may be registered with the Attorney General’s office for enforcement purposes.

However, not all child support cases handled by local courts are automatically managed by the Attorney General’s Child Support Division. It depends on whether the parties involved in the case have requested their services or if the case meets certain criteria for involvement by the Attorney General’s office.

To determine if the Texas Attorney General has your child support case, you can try the following:

  1. Check any documents or correspondence you have received from the court or the Attorney General’s office regarding your child support case.
  2. Contact the local court that handled your child support case and inquire about the involvement of the Attorney General’s office.
  3. Reach out to the Texas Attorney General’s Child Support Division directly to inquire about your case. You can visit their website for contact information and online resources, including a portal to access your child support case information if it is being managed by their office.

Child support is calculated using the Texas Child Support Guidelines, which considers the non-custodial parent’s income, the number of children, and certain deductions.

Yes, in Texas, child support arrears accrue interest at a rate of 6 percent per year. The Texas Attorney General’s office is responsible for calculating and collecting this interest on behalf of the custodial parent.

In Texas, if a parent fails to pay child support, they may face numerous consequences, including wage garnishment, tax refund interception, property liens, suspension of a driver’s license or professional license, and even jail time. The Texas Attorney General’s office is not afraid to take legal action against parents who fail to pay child support.

The Texas Attorney General’s office can help parents who owe child support arrears by setting up payment plans. These plans allow parents to catch up on past-due support while still providing for their children.

While you can represent yourself in child support cases, it’s highly recommended to work with an experienced family law attorney to protect your rights and the best interests of your child.

 

Yes, the Attorney General can review and modify child support orders if there is a significant change in circumstances, such as a change in income. Filing for a modification through the OAG can take time, however, as the OAG’s Child Support Division is backlogged with cases.

Any parent or legal guardian who has custody of a child and needs help establishing or enforcing a child support order can use the services of the Texas Office of Attorney General Child Support Division. In addition, anyone who has been ordered to pay child support can also use the services of the agency to modify their child support order or to make payments.

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