The Child Support Division in the Office of the Attorney General assists parents in obtaining the financial support necessary for children to grow up and succeed in life.
To encourage parental responsibility, the Office of the Attorney General establishes paternity of children, establishes court orders for financial and medical support, and enforces support orders. The Attorney General promotes the involvement of both parents in their children’s lives by working with community groups, schools and hospitals. In the performance of their duties on behalf of Texas children, child support staff focus on efficiency, effectiveness and customer service.
Custodial parents can call the 24-hour hotline at (800) 252-8014 to receive automated information. With their customer identification numbers (CIN), they can receive information on payments and case status without having to wait for a caseworker.
As mandated by Title IV-D of the Social Security Act of 1975 and designated by the State of Texas, the Office of the Attorney General is responsible for the establishment and enforcement of child support. The Office of the Attorney General represents the State of Texas and cannot represent individuals involved in child support suits.
As the designated Title IV-D agency, the Office of the Attorney General is responsible for:
The Attorney General’s office accepts applications from mothers, fathers and other individuals who request services. Our attorneys represent the State of Texas in providing child support services and do not represent either parent in the case.
Customers do not have the right to select what enforcement actions are taken in their cases. The Office of the Attorney General is required to provide all appropriate services for the benefit of the children.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and certain Medicaid recipients automatically receive child support services after they are certified for public assistance. Persons who do not receive TANF or Medicaid must apply for child support services. There is no charge to apply for child support services. Many services are provided at no cost. Effective October 1, 2011, custodial parents with full-service cases who have never received TANF will pay a $25 fee each year that they receive at least $500 in child support collections. Fees will be deducted from child support payments. Parents who have more than one child support case will pay a fee on each case that meets the criteria.
The Child Support Division of the Office of the Attorney General operates field offices throughout the state where people may apply for services. The telephone numbers and addresses for these offices can be found on our website.
A parent can also request an application for services by calling our toll-free telephone number at (800) 252-8014 or by clicking here. An applicant who is deaf or hard of hearing can call TTY (800)572-2686 (512) 460-6417 or (512) 460-6399 (voice).
Obtaining child support involves a wide variety of factors, making it difficult to predict the time required to secure payments on individual cases. For example, one case may require the full range of services — locating the absent parent, establishing paternity and a support order, and enforcing the order. Another case may have a divorce decree with an established order, a social security number, and an employer for the noncustodial parent, allowing enforcement of payment through an administrative income withholding order.
The most important information an applicant can provide, aside from the noncustodial parent’s current address, is the name and address of the noncustodial parent’s current employer. If the current employer is not known, the name and address of the last known employer should be provided.
Additionally, the following information about the noncustodial parent should be made available:
If available, child support applicants should submit copies of the following:
Parents with an open child support case can establish an agreed paternity and child support order by participating in a Child Support Review Process (CSRP) negotiation conference. Depending on the local office handling your case, you may be automatically scheduled for a CSRP negotiation meeting or you may need to contact the office and request a CSRP negotiation meeting.
Minor parents can ask their local child support office if a pre-trial negotiation conference can be scheduled. At the conference the minor parents and their adult representatives (legal guardian, parent, or next friend) will meet with a child support officer and negotiate a child support order in the privacy of an office. If all issues are resolved during the conference, then the parties will not have to appear in court.
Child support offices may not be able to accommodate all requests for pre-trial negotiation conferences.
Under certain circumstances a grandparent can open a child support case to establish paternity and obtain court ordered child support.
A separate child support case will be opened with each noncustodial parent (mother and father), even if one or both parents live in the same household.
To receive TANF benefits through the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, recipients must cooperate with the Office of the Attorney General’s efforts to identify the child(ren)’s noncustodial parent and collect child support.
TANF recipients must assign to the State their right to child support collections. Payments collected in the case while the family receives TANF benefits are applied toward reimbursing the state and federal governments for TANF benefits received by the family. However, the family will receive as a “pass-through” the first $75 collected during any month that a current child support payment is made. When the family no longer receives TANF, all current support payments are sent to the custodial parent.
You may call (toll-free in Texas) (800) 572-2686 (TTY) or (512) 460-6043 (fax). When you call, please have the following information available: your name, Social Security number and TTY number. You also may learn valuable information on the Attorney General’s website at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.
If the custodial parent no longer receives TANF or Medicaid and wishes to discontinue child support enforcement services, the case will be reviewed for case closure. In most instances, payments on closed cases will continue to be processed by the State Disbursement Unit until further order of the court.
Only the Court can modify the child support order. It cannot be done by agreement of the parties. Grounds for a modification include a material and substantial change in the circumstances of a child or a person affected by the order, or the passage of three years since the last child support order and a difference in monthly payment by either 20 percent or $100 from the child support guidelines. A parent subject to a child support order may request a review of the ordered child support amounts every three years by contacting the Office of the Attorney General.
Remember, a noncustodial parent is responsible for supporting his or her child even if that parent is still a minor. The judge will look at a young parent’s income while he or she is still in school and decide how much support must be paid.
The noncustodial parent’s income can be reviewed again after he or she has finished school and begins working. The judge will decide what changes need to be made in the child support payment.
Yes. Even though the child’s father is providing support, he may change his mind, become disabled, or even die. In most cases, unmarried parents can ensure certain benefits for their children only if paternity has been established.
Children who are supported by only one parent often do not have enough money for even basic needs. Every child is entitled to financial support and other resources from both parents.
The custodial parent, the child, and the child’s doctor need to know whether the child has inherited any diseases or disorders that may not be detected at birth or in childhood. Children can receive better medical treatment if doctors know the full medical history of the family.
If paternity has been established, a child has a legal father and will have the possible right of inheritance from both parents. The child may also be eligible for other benefits such as Social Security, medical insurance, life insurance and veteran’s benefits.
Each parent has the duty to financially and emotionally support his or her child. Each parent is presumed to possess the right to custody or visitation. If the parents cannot agree, custody, child support, and visitation will be decided by a court. Both parties must obey the court order. One parent cannot refuse to pay support because the other parent is refusing visitation and vice versa.
Paternity may be voluntarily established by agreement of both the mother and the father of the child. The parents can sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP), which becomes a legal finding of paternity when it is filed with the Texas Vital Statistics Unit. If the mother or alleged father is not sure about the paternity of the child, neither should sign an AOP. Paternity should be established through the courts.
Effective September 1, 1999, Texas law states that a biological father will become the legal father if both he and the mother sign an AOP. This makes him legally responsible for paying child support if he lives apart from the child and enables the court to grant him visitation or custody. In order to obtain child support and visitation rights that are enforceable, a parent must go to either a child support office or a private attorney.
An Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) form can be completed by a certified entity, such as a local birth registrar or child support office. Parents completing an AOP form through a child support office are not required to open a child support case. Information on local certified entities and information about establishing paternity is available toll-free at (866) 255-2006.
The AOP can be signed before or after the birth of the child. However, the AOP must be processed through a certified entity. If the father cannot be at the hospital, both parents can go to a certified entity (child support office or local birth registrar’s office) to process the AOP and get an entity code. Then, the mother can bring the AOP to the hospital and have it completed at the time of the birth of the child. The AOP also can be processed after the birth of the child by going to a certified entity. Parents who live out of state can get assistance in completing the AOP over the phone by calling (866) 255-2006.
If the mother is married to someone other than the bio¬logical father at the time of the child’s birth or the baby is born within 300 days of her divorce from a man who is not the biological father, that man is the presumed father. The biological father cannot become the legal father by signing the AOP until a presumed father, if any, signs the Denial of Paternity, which is part of the AOP form. If the Denial is not signed, either biological parent can open a case with the Attorney General or establish paternity through the courts.
If the mother applies for services or is referred to the Child Support Division to establish paternity, she will be asked questions about men who may have fathered the child. It is very important for the mother to provide as much information as she can to help determine the father’s identity.
Paternity may be established even if the father is still in school or if he lives in another state.
Texas law says that both parents are responsible for supporting their children. Just as the mother is responsible for the child even if the pregnancy was not planned, so is the father. This means that once the court determines the identity of the biological father, the man must help support his child.
He may ask for scientific paternity testing. A court will examine the results of the paternity test and then decide whether the alleged father is the biological father.
If a parent opens a child support case with the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and the OAG determines that a DNA test is necessary, generally one will be provided at no cost.
Anyone who signs the AOP may file a Rescission of the Acknowledgment of Paternity form (VS-158) to rescind the AOP. The form must be filed before the first 60 days after the AOP has been filed with the Vital Statistics Unit (VSU) or before a legal proceeding related to the child is initiated, whichever comes first. After that, a person may challenge the AOP in court under certain situations. Parents must read the AOP carefully before signing it. The AOP is a legal document. Texas Penal Code, Section 37.10, specifies penalties for making false entries or providing false information on the AOP.
Under Texas law, minors are not seen as adults in civil legal matters and must have an adult representative during legal matters, including child support suits. A minor parent, when applying for child support services, should provide the name and contact information of an adult who can serve as their next friend (adult representative). In most cases this will be the minor’s parent or legal guardian.
A next friend is an adult representative for a minor. The adult representative is responsible for protecting the legal rights of the minor. The next friend should make sure that the minor parent understands the legal decisions being made during the child support court process. The next friend can either be the parent or legal guardian of a minor or a court appointed adult representative.
The next friend will be responsible for accompanying the minor parent to any and all pretrial negotiation conferences and court hearings.
The next friend will not be ordered to pay court costs, fees, child support or medical support.
As mentioned above, in most cases the next friend will be the minor parent’s parent or legal guardian.
If the legal guardian of the minor parent is unable to serve as the adult representative, the minor parent may choose to bring before the court a trusted adult who is willing to be appointed as a next friend. The court will determine who shall be appointed to serve as the minor parent’s adult representative.
The court can appoint a guardian ad litem or attorney ad litem (if possible) to represent a minor parent.
A minor parent may bring to court a trusted adult who is willing and able to serve as his or her next friend. The judge will determine whether that person can be appointed as the next friend.
Yes. Even if the child’s grandparents are providing financial support or goods (diapers, formula, clothes, etc.) a child’s legal rights to his/her father are not protected unless legal fatherhood is established. In most cases, unmarried parents can ensure certain benefits for their children only if paternity has been established.
The law requires states to cooperate with each other. The noncustodial parent is legally required to make regular child support payments, no matter where he or she lives.
If a noncustodial parent does not pay child support, he or she is subject to enforcement measures to collect regular and past-due payments. The Child Support Division uses many techniques to enforce child support orders, including:
A judge may sentence a nonpaying parent to jail and enter a judgment for past due child support.
Noncustodial parents who hold a state license, owe more than three months of past-due child support, and are not in compliance with an existing court-ordered or voluntary repayment schedule face license suspension.
Most adults have a driver’s licenses. Computer matches can determine which obligors have other licenses and permits ranging from medical, dental, and law licenses to hunting and fishing licenses.
The statute identifies 60 licensing agencies. However, this list is not exclusive. For example, “licensing authority” includes political subdivisions and any other board or agency not listed by name.
The Attorney General’s Child Support Division electronically matches its caseload with other state agencies that are responsible for issuing licenses. When the match shows that a parent who meets the statutory criteria for license suspension holds one or more of the identified licenses, the Office of the Attorney General will send the license holder a warning and provide an opportunity to resolve the outstanding delinquency.
If the parent fails to respond, the Child Support Division will confirm his or her location and other information necessary to suspend the license and then refer the case for administrative or judicial prosecution.
Both parents must provide for the child, no matter which parent has primary custody. Child support is normally paid to the custodial parent for the benefit of the child. Legal custody can be changed, but only if the parents go to court to modify the previous child support order and establish a child support amount for the new noncustodial parent.
Federal regulations do not allow the Office of the Attorney General to use child support funding to provide legal services for custody or visitation disputes.
The Office of the Attorney General does receive limited special funding to provide assistance to parents with custody and visitation issues. Information about these services and basic legal information regarding child access and visitation issues is available by contacting the Texas Access and Visitation Hotline. The statewide toll-free number, (866) 292-4636, is answered in English and Spanish, Monday – Friday from 1-7 p.m. The hotline has a corresponding website, www.txaccess.org, where parents can download sample materials and tools for assistance with child access issues.
The OAG maintains an online directory of programs and service providers across Texas designed to facilitate shared parenting after separation or divorce. You can search the online directory by zip code, county, or service provided.
In the rare case where custody and/or visitation are contested, you may choose to hire a private attorney or represent yourself. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you may be eligible for federally-funded legal assistance. Look in the phonebook under "Legal Aid" or "Legal Services." Sometimes the court will appoint a lawyer for the child. Also, many law schools operate legal clinics at which law students assist people under the supervision of a law professor or other lawyer. Contact the law school nearest you for more information.
Some communities have additional resources for parents to resolve custody and visitation conflicts. Check your local listings for dispute resolution providers, such as mediators or co-parenting facilitators, or check with your county to see if there is a County Domestic Relations Office that provides these services.
Child support and visitation rights are separate issues. The court determines both and will usually order the noncustodial parent to pay child support and the custodial parent to make the child available for visits.
The custodial parent has a duty to obey the court order for visitation, even if the noncustodial parent cannot or will not pay child support. The court can enforce its orders against either parent.
The 82nd Texas Legislature amended the Texas Family Code to allow courts to terminate the parent-child relationship and the duty to pay child support in circumstances of mistaken paternity. Men who meet the requirements of the law may seek court-ordered genetic testing. If testing excludes a man as the child’s biological father, the court may terminate the parent-child relationship and the duty to pay future child support. The man is still responsible for arrears that accrued up to the termination date, as well as for interest that accrues after the termination date. [TFC § 161.005(c)-(o)]
Texas law requires the man who is alleging mistaken paternity to file a petition to terminate the parent-child relationship. The petition must be filed in accordance with TFC § 161.005(c). The court must hold a pretrial hearing to determine if the man, known as the petitioner, meets the legal requirements for the case to proceed. If he does, the court will order the petitioner and the child to submit to genetic testing. If genetic testing results exclude the petitioner as the child’s biological father, the court shall render an order terminating the parent-child relationship.
Before Sept. 1, 2012, a petition may be filed regardless of when the man learned that he is not the child’s genetic father. Effective Sept. 1, 2012, a petition must be filed no later than the first anniversary of the date on which the man becomes aware that he is not the child’s father.
Texas law requires that a man state the facts in his petition that show he believed he was the child's genetic father at the time the acknowledgment was signed or the court order was rendered. At the pretrial hearing, the judge will consider the man's information and any evidence from an opposing party in deciding if the case should proceed.
The Office of the Attorney General does not represent any of the parties in the case and cannot give legal advice. A man who questions his paternity may decide to contact an attorney for advice on how to proceed. If a man who has an OAG child support case decides to petition the court to terminate the parent-child relationship, the OAG must be given notice of the petition after it is filed with the court. The law does not allow the OAG to file the petition on the man’s behalf.
Termination of the man’s parental rights ends the obligation to pay future support, as of the date the order is rendered. The order does not eliminate any child support obligations before that date or any interest that has accrued. The man is still responsible for arrears that accrued up to the termination date, as well as for interest that accrues after the termination date.
If the man, prior to an order terminating his parental rights, requests continued access or possession of the child, the court may order periods of possession or access to the child only if denying continued possession and access would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional well-being.
In Texas, county-operated domestic relations or child support offices, private attorneys, and private collection agencies also provide some child support enforcement services.
Private agencies charge for their services. Parents who use the services of a private child support collection agency should fully understand any contract they sign.
The majority of the Child Support Division’s incoming cases do not have established paternity or child support orders. These cases take longer to process than cases with established paternity and child support orders. Private child support collection agencies and county domestic relations offices generally handle only cases with established paternity and existing child support orders.
The Office of the Attorney General is required to provide child support services to all families applying for services. Services musl also be provided to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Medicaid families referred to the Child Support Division by the Texas Heath and Human Services Commission. Moreover, the Child Support Division provides a full range of child support services. The division’s caseload is very large — much larger than that of any private collection agency. Therefore, private agencies may be able to process some cases more quickly. This must be balanced against the cost of using a private agency.
Absolutely. The Office of the Attorney General uses many volunteer workers. In fact, volunteers contribute a cost-equivalent value of more than $1 million each year. All Child Support Division offices and customer service centers across the state utilize volunteers for everything from preparing packets for court cases to filing and other clerical tasks.
Students seeking internships to satisfy course require¬ments are also needed.
To obtain information on how to volunteer or become an intern, contact the Community Services and Volunteer Program at (512) 460-6338 or visit the OAG website at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.
Custodial parents who receive full-service monitoring and enforcement services and have never been on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families will pay a $25 service fee for each year that they receive at least $500 in child support collections. The fee will be deducted from the child support payment.
The custodial parent will pay a $3 monthly fee in cases that receive registry-only payment processing and record keeping services through the federally mandated State Disbursement Unit (SDU) for each month in which a child support payment of more than $3 is received. The fee will be deducted from the child support payment.
A case will not accrue both an annual service fee and a monthly SDU fee simultaneously.
The $3 monthly SDU fee will take effect Sept. 1, 2011. The $25 annual service fee will take effect Oct. 1, 2011.
Federal law requires all states to impose a $25 annual service fee on cases that involve custodial parents who have never received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. The fee is imposed for each year that a parent receives at least $500 in child support. Until Sept. 30, 2011, the State of Texas paid the fee for parents. More than $25 million has been paid to the federal government to cover the annual fees. Due to the state budget deficit, the Legislature has authorized the Office of the Attorney General to collect the fee from custodial parents.
In addition, the Legislature has authorized a $3 monthly SDU fee to offset costs to taxpayers to operate the child support disbursement unit.
No. The $25 annual service fee is for parents who have full-service child support cases with the Office of the Attorney General. The $3 monthly SDU fee is for parents who receive registry-only payment processing and record keeping services through the federally mandated State Disbursement Unit (SDU). If a parent has more than one case, and one is full-service and one is registry-only, the parent will be charged the applicable fee for each case.
The $25 annual service fee will not increase the amount of a noncustodial parent’s obligation. The total amount that the noncustodial parent pays will continue to be reflected on the Consolidated Pay Record. It is possible that judges may order a noncustodial parent to pay the $3 SDU fee in addition to the monthly support payment. Applicable fees will be deducted from the child support payment before it is sent to the custodial parent.
Yes. Many services are provided at no cost. For example, paternity testing, referring a noncustodial parent for IRS intercept and going to court to establish paternity and child support orders are provided at no cost to the customer. Enforcement actions are always free for the custodial parent. There continues to be no charge for locate only services. Also, although state law allows the Office of the Attorney General to require an application fee for child support services, there is no charge to open a case. Many states require parents to pay a fee to open a child support case.
If child support payments continue to be paid through the State Disbursement Unit, the case will then be subject to the $3 monthly SDU fee.
A full-service case provides many benefits, such as establishment of paternity and child support orders, enforcement and modification of child support orders, interception of IRS and unemployment payments, automatic income withholding and passport denial.
Full-service cases require a $25 fee in each year that the custodial parent receives at least $500 in child support collections. Since all payments go through the SDU, payment processing time is the same for both types of cases.
The $25 annual fee on full-service cases and the $3 monthly SDU fee are set by statute and may only be changed by the Legislature.
No. Collection of the fee will have no effect on the processing time of your payment.
Beginning Sept. 1, 2011, in registry-only cases the custodial parent’s first payment of the month that exceeds $3 will be reduced by that amount to cover the SDU fee.
Beginning Oct. 1, 2011, custodial parents with full-service child support cases may check the OAG’s Child Support Interactive Voice Response (IVR) line (800) 252-8014 or Child Support Interactive (CSI) on the child support section of the OAG website www.texasattorneygeneral.gov to see if the $25 annual service fee was withheld from a payment.
No. The fees retained do not affect the amount of the child support withheld by an employer. Employers submit the withheld payment as usual and the OAG retains any applicable fees from the submitted payment.