Enforcing a child support order against a person who fails or refuses to pay can become time-consuming and expensive. Texas family law provides multiple options for enforcing a child support order. It also allows a person enforcing a child support order to recover reasonable attorney’s fees and costs if the court finds the other party “failed to make child support payments.” TEX. FAM. CODE § 157.167(a).
When a child support payment is not timely made, it becomes a final judgment by operation of law. TEX. FAM. CODE § 157.261(a) In a recent case, the mother sought a writ of execution on the final judgment that arose as a result of the father’s failure to pay the child support. The trial court found she had “a valid enforceable judgment” that was “wholly unsatisfied and subject to execution.” The constable took possession of certain of the father’s property and held an execution sale. Both the mother and father sought disbursement of the proceeds of the sale.
There was additional litigation related to the mother’s collection efforts. The trial court ultimately ordered the father to pay $30,675 to the mother for attorney’s fees. The trial court based the attorney’s fees on the attorney’s affidavit and timesheet. The father appealed.
On appeal, the father argued there was not a statutory basis for the award for attorney’s fees. The trial court had concluded there was a valid enforceable judgment for the past-due child support, and in doing so had found the father failed to pay child support. TEX. FAM. CODE § 157.167(a) provides that the court “shall order” the payment of reasonable attorney’s fees and all court costs if it finds the respondent failed to make child support payments. The appeals court found that the award of attorney’s fees was mandatory in this case and affirmed the trial court’s order.
Both parties should understand the consequences of failure to pay child support. The party who is owed the child support should be aware that an award of attorney’s fees is likely available. The cost of enforcement should not necessarily discourage a parent from seeking enforcement of a child support order.
The parent ordered to pay child support should also be aware that a failure to pay could result in an order to pay attorney’s fees and court costs the other parent incurs in enforcing the child support order. If circumstances have changed and the parent is no longer able to pay child support in the amount ordered, he or she should consider seeking a modification of the child support order. A modification could prevent the parent from falling into arrears and being ordered to pay attorney’s fees and court costs in addition to the child support.
If you are seeking enforcement of a child support order or if you believe you may need a modification of your child support order, an experienced Texas child support attorney can help you identify the best option for enforcing the order. Contact the attorneys at McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200 to schedule a consultation.
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