How Do I Get Child Support in Texas?

Even if the honeymoon didn't last beyond a decade, children are forever. And until they reach the age of majority -- 18 in Texas -- both parents are responsible for the care and upbringing of their children, including any financial support they may need. When one parent makes payments to the parent who has primary custody of their shared children, this arrangement is referred to as "child support" and may be either agreed upon by the parents or ordered by the court. In either case, it's a requirement and must satisfy the best interests of the child.

This article provides a step-by-step guide to help you get child support in Texas.

How to Get Child Support in Texas: Overview

The child support process can be complicated at first, especially since it's often such a stressful time for families. While an attorney will understand the finer points of the law and your case, the following information will give you a general understanding of the process.

Statutes

Texas Family Code: Section 231.001, et seq.

Getting Child Support in Texas: Basic Process

Situations may vary by case, but these are the general steps required for getting child support in Texas:

  1. Determine the appropriate court - This must be in the county where the child lives; if you and your child live outside of Texas, then file in the Texas county where the noncustodial parent lives.
  2. Complete the petition form - If you're also getting divorced, it will be included in your divorce packet; otherwise, use this form.
  3. Complete other forms as needed - Most cases require filing the following form: Information on Suit Affecting the Family Relationship; file an Income Withholding Order unless both parents agree otherwise; file an Out-of-State Party Affidavit if the other parent is out of state.
  4. Be prepared to pay a filing fee - The fee is roughly $200; ask for an Affidavit of Indigency if you are unable to afford the fee.
  5. Serve a copy of the petition to the other parent - You may do so by agreement (the other parent may agree to waive service); by personal service (a sheriff or private process server, for a fee); or by publication (if you are unable to locate the other parent, you'll also need to hire an attorney ad litem).
  6. Receive child support payments - Once an order of support is finalized, you will receive payments weekly, biweekly, monthly, or in a lump sum (the judge will set the terms and the start date, and may order retroactive payments).

Note: Some forms may need to be signed before a notary public (available in courthouses and banks with a valid ID).

Special Considerations

  • If your child receives (or has received) Temporary Aid for Needy Families or Medicaid, then you will need to send a copy of your petition to the Office of the Attorney General, Child Support Division: P.O. Box 12017, Austin, Texas, 78711.
  • If you're unable to locate the other parent, you'll need to hire an attorney ad litem who can do a search for the other parent; also contact the Texas Attorney General's Office, which will search for the parent and help you prove paternity.
  • If the noncustodial parent fails to pay child support after an order has been made, they are in "arrears" and you may start the enforcement process; fill out and file a Motion to Enforce (each court has its own preferred format) or get help from an attorney.

Establishing Paternity

If may be necessary to establish the paternity of your child before you may proceed with a child support petition, which can be done in one of two ways:

  1. Acknowledgment of Paternity - This is when the biological father (who is not married to the mother) voluntarily agrees that he is the father. This may be filed with the Texas Vital Statistics Unit at any time after the child is born.
  2. Court Order - If either parent is unsure about who the father is, or if there is a dispute, paternity may be established through a court order (typically following a DNA test).

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Research the Law

Getting Child Support in Texas: Related Resources

Trying to Get Child Support in Texas? An Attorney Can Help

Children have a much better chance of thriving when they have the financial support of both parents. Child support laws help ensure the noncustodial parent pays their fair share. If you need help getting child support in Texas, consider contacting an experienced Texas child support attorney near you today.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

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