Beth M. Johnson
Child Support Enforcement
Updated: Jan 31, 2022
An obligee can file a motion to enforce child support. In re D.G.R., No. 04-05-00439-CV, 2006 WL 3611156 (Tex. App.—San Antonio 2006, no pet.) (mem. op.). The obligee is the person or entity entitled to receive child support payments, including an agency of Texas or another jurisdiction to which a person has assigned the person’s right to support. Tex. Fam. Code § 101.021; see Tex. Fam Code § 102.007. If the Office of the Attorney General (“OAG”) is entitled to service, the OAG must be served at least three days before the hearing. See Tex. Fam. Code § 102.009(d). If the OAG has been a party to a prior child-support suit for the parties, the OAG will always be entitled to service. If the parties agree to an order but fail to involve the OAG in that agreement, and if the OAG was a necessary party, the judgment can be reversed. See, e.g., In re D.A.J., No. 04-19-00641-CV, 2020 WL 557544, at *2 (Tex. App.—San Antonio 2020, no pet.) (mem. op.).
The OAG, as a party, can appeal a judgment on its own. See id.; see also In re R.D.E., __ S.W.3d __, No. 13-20-00275-CV, 2021 WL 2371760 (Tex. App.—San Antonio 2021, no pet. h.). In R.D.E., the OAG believed that the trial court abused its discretion by applying a lump sum disability benefit received by the father against both his arrearages and his future child support obligation. R.D.E., 2021 WL 2371760, at *1. After a thorough review of the Texas Family Code, the appellate court upheld the trial court’s order. Id. at *3–*4.
If an obligor fails to satisfy an obligation to pay child support, the obligee may seek various cumulative remedies, including (1) an order holding the obligor in contempt of court, (2) a cumulative money judgment of the arrearages that can be executed and enforced as any other judgment, (3) enforcement of the obligee’s child support lien against the obligor's nonexempt property, (4) a judicial writ of withholding from the obligor's earnings, and (5) an administrative writ of withholding from the obligor’s earnings. Khaligh v. Khaligh, No. 01-18-01119-CV, 2020 WL 4006445, at *2 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2020, no pet.) (mem. op.).
While a motion seeking contempt must be filed within two years, the court retains jurisdiction to reduce child-support arrearages to a cumulative money judgment under Texas Family Code 157.263 until ten years after the date (1) the child becomes an adult or (2) the child-support obligation terminates under the support order or by operation of law. Cf. Tex. Fam. Code 157.005(a). This time limit is considered to be a limit on the court’s jurisdiction, not a statute of limitations. Dise v. Dise, 493 S.W.3d 704 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2016, no pet.). An obligor may raise affirmative defenses to excuse noncompliance; however, laches is not a defense to a child-support-enforcement action. See OAG v. Schoeler, 403 S.W.3d 859, 866–67 (Tex. 2013).
In Khaligh, after the mother died, the 41-year-old daughter filed a notice of application for judicial writ of withholding on her father with a sworn child-support arrearage amount of $229,089.20. Khaligh, 2020 WL 4006445, at *1. The court held that the daughter had standing because a child support termination does not terminate on the death of the obligee but continues as an obligation to the child. Id. at *3 (citing Tex. Fam. Code § 154.013).
Further, the adult daughter did not seek enforcement of child support by seeking a money judgment for arrearages, so she was not barred by the 10-year limitation period. Id. at *2. Rather, she sought a child-support lien and judicial writ of withholding. Id. A writ of income withholding may be issued until all child support arrearages have been paid. Id. at *4 (citing Tex. Fam. Code § 158.102).