Inside the Texas Attorney General's Office (Child Support Division): an Expose
(Child Support Division):
an Exposé
The inefficiencies of a stupid, bumbling, incompetent, out-of-control,
poorly-run bureaucracy.   An inside look, from a former employee.

I'm the FATHER.
What should I do in Court?
What should I expect?

PATERNITY CASES:

Rule 1 (write this on the back of your hand): Ask for a DNA test.   The AG pays for it (initially); you don't have to reach into your own back pocket.

If you signed an Acknowledgment of Paternity when the baby was born, it makes a difference.

Rule 2: If you've been sending any money to the Mom over the years (for the support of the kid), BRING YOUR RECEIPTS (or canceled checks) TO COURT to prove how much you've paid.   If you don't have receipts, MAKE A LIST OF THE PAYMENTS YOU'VE PAID (the best you can remember)   -   dates and amounts.   This will have a direct impact on how much retroactive child support is ordered by the Judge.   It could save you THOUSANDS of dollars.

ENFORCEMENT CASES:
Rule One is: if you've been served with a show cause order, you MUST go to Court.   If you don't show up for the hearing, the Judge will issue a "capias" (arrest warrant), and the constable will come pick you up and take you to jail.

Receiving a letter from the AG, or receiving telephone notice from your ex-wife, is NOT the same as being served!   If you haven't actually been served, then your attendance in Court is optional.

"Being served" involves a human being (sheriff's deputy, constable, or private process server) personally handing papers to you (or it involves CERTIFIED mail).

In court ... be humble.   Don't be belligerent, no matter how big of a jerk your ex-wife has been.   As soon as you're served with the papers (which will include a "show cause order"), mail in a child support payment.   If all you have is a partial payment, send THAT in.   And bring some money with you to Court (to pay toward your child support).

The worst thing that can happen is for you to be standing in Court before the Master and he says, "Hmmmm, let's see, you were served six weeks ago ... you haven't paid one dime since then .... AND you didn't bring any money with you today?   Now tell me again why I shouldn't put you in jail this morning?"

Remember that the Master (aka the Judge) CAN put you in jail at a hearing on a motion for enforcement.   The pleading that was served on you asks the Master to do just that.   Out of every 200 enforcement cases, MAYBE one will go to jail, straight from the courtroom, on the first setting (Judge Collins [Dallas] has a standard procedure: he will reset your case if you don't bring money, and will order you to bring a certain number of dollars to the reset hearing; if you come back without money, he COULD put you in jail.   Or he might just reset it again, and order you to come back.   If you don't come back to Court for the reset hearing, he'll issue a capias for your arrest).

When you're in front of the Master/Judge, do NOT EVEN MENTION other bills that you have to pay   -   house payment, truck payment, etc.   Don't EVER say that you couldn't afford to make the child support payments because of other bills!   The attitude of ALL the Judges in Texas is: "You're not under a Court order to pay your rent.   You're not under a Court order to pay your electric bill.   You won't go to jail if you fail to pay your car note.   But you CAN go to jail if you don't pay your child support."

And whatever you do, don't tell the Judge, "If I go to jail, I'll lose my job, and she won't get anything."   Don't even THINK about saying it.

There are, basically, only three defenses to a child support enforcement action, and none of them apply to you: (1) I'm not Hector Gonzales   -   you've served the wrong guy   -   I don't have two children named Rogelio and Carmelita; (2) I have already paid this arrearage, all of it, and I have receipts to prove it; or (3) I've been in a coma for eight months and couldn't sign a check to pay child support.   See section 157.008(c) of the Texas Family Code (available in your local law library ... if you're at the Dallas County Courthouse on 600 Commerce, the law library is located on the second floor, and it is open to the public).   Trust me ... you can't "beat the rap."   Make a deal with the AG to keep from going to jail.

Here's a little secret, though: On "contempt" day, your judge receives a note from the Sheriff indicating how many jail cells are available/empty.   If there's "no room at the inn," you're not going to jail, no matter what.

What if I was unemployed for a while?   I didn't have any income for almost three months !!!   The rule in Texas has always been: The child support order isn't contingent on you having an income.   The order doesn't say, "John Smith shall pay child support of $445.00 per month, unless he loses his job, in which case he doesn't have to pay for those months."   The Judge/Master has little sympathy for your unemployment.   Losing your job isn't an excuse, and won't get you off the hook.   No matter how bad the economy gets, the Judge won't give you a break.


The typical result in an enforcement case is: the Judge makes a finding of the amount of the arrearage; he holds you in contempt, and sentences you to six months in jail; he suspends the sentence (meaning that you get to go home and sleep in your own bed that night); and he orders you to pay an extra amount each month in addition to your regular monthly child support.

Thereafter, if you don't make payments, you will probably be put in jail.

MOTION FOR REVOCATION OF SUSPENSION OF COMMITMENT:
This is the situation where (1) you previously went to Court on a child support enforcement case, (2) you were sentenced to jail, but the sentence was SUSPENDED, which means that you didn't go to jail, and (3) the condition of suspension of the sentence was that you pay child support   -   the regular support PLUS a little extra to go toward the arrearage.

And now, after all that, you still didn't make the payments.   You've been served with a MFROSOC, and now you're back in Court.

My friend, you're probably screwed.   Odds are better than 50-50 that you'll go to jail.   Your only real hope is to bring a truckload of money to the hearing.   If you can't do that ... bring a toothbrush.

Remember that you have the right to appeal within seven days after the hearing.   If the Master sentences you to jail, filing the appeal will NOT keep you from going to jail!   It may POSSIBLY get you out of jail ... eventually.   And you need to follow a special procedure over and above merely filing the seven-day appeal, or they'll leave your ass sitting in jail for several weeks while you're waiting for your appeal hearing to come up!!!   Yes, you need a lawyer.



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