3. If Dad isn't paying child support, the Attorney General can file a Motion for Enforcement which asks the Court to
- make a finding of the amount of arrearage ("Dad owes $X")
- find Dad in contempt
- put him in jail for six months
- make Dad pay Court costs (the Judge WILL do this)
- make an order for extra monthly payments (over and above the regular monthly child support) to repay the arrearage.
If Dad does get served, and comes to Court (if he doesn't show up at a contempt hearing after he's been served - he was served with an Order to Appear - the Judge will issue a "capias" which is a warrant for his arrest. Dad will be picked up and taken to jail), and there's a hearing (Dad makes his excuses to the Judge, none of which will make any difference), the result will be, in 95% of all cases, that
- the Judge will make a finding as to the amount of arrearage
- the Judge will find Dad in contempt
- the Judge will sentence Dad to six months in jail but will probate the sentence for a period of ten years (yes, TEN YEARS) - the Judge will order monthly repayments (this in addition to regular monthly child support) of the arrearage amount.
MODIFICATION AND ENFORCEMENT
If the Dad is behind on child support AND the monthly Court-ordered child support payment is "too low" (let's say his salary has doubled since the last order), the Attorney General can file a motion that asks for enforcement AND modification. It can all be done in the same pleading, and can be heard at the same (final) hearing.
If Dad doesn't pay AFTER that - in other words, he's on probation, and he's supposed to be making payments, but doesn't pay ...
MOTION TO REVOKE SUSPENSION OF COMMITMENT
4. Mom can get the Attorney General to file a "Motion to Revoke Suspension of Commitment" (sometimes the AG files it without any prompting from you. They love to put people in jail). This Motion says: "Judge, we tried using the THREAT of jail to get him to pay. You actually SENTENCED him to jail, but suspended the sentence. Well, guess what, Judge? That didn't work. Dad isn't paying. So now it's time to hit him with the actual jail sentence ... i.e., put him in jail."
"ORIGINAL PETITION" (for a married woman who's separated)
5. Mom, let's say you're married, and Dad has left. Nobody has filed for divorce; you're just living apart (you couldn't come up with the $2500 up-front fee the divorce lawyer wanted from you). Dad forgot to take the children with him when he left. It's been a few months now, and he's also forgotten to send you any money. The sole supporter of your children is YOU, Mom, and you don't have enough funds. Go to the AG's office and get an application. The AG can file an Original Petition to Establish Child Support Order. All this does (if the Judge grants the motion, and he will) is to set up an order for Dad to pay child support. It does NOT have anything to do with divorce. You and Dad are still married, as the months and years roll by; if you win the lottery, half of it belongs to him.
Bear in mind that there are some special rules about modification of child support (see section 156.401 of the Texas Family Code) that are basically designed to keep people from asking for modification every two or three months (the Courts would be overworked). In other words, if you put in an application with the AG to get a modification and they tell you they can't do it, they may be telling you the truth.