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Understanding Texas child support laws

Child support is a legal obligation in Texas. Once a judge has signed an order of child support, the noncustodial parent is required to pay the specified amount of child support to the custodial parent of his or her children or to the person who has primary custody of them. Under the Texas Family Code, failure to do so can result in the specified periodic payment being withheld from the disposable earnings of the obligor; i.e., the parent required to pay.

The court may order that child support payments continue until one of the following occurs:

  • The child reaches 18 years of age or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later.
  • The child becomes emancipated through marriage or other operation of law.
  • The child dies.
  • The child becomes disabled for an indefinite period.

While most child support is ordered to be paid on a periodic basis, generally monthly, the court also has the authority to order that it be paid through a lump sum, the purchase of an annuity, or by putting property aside for the support of the child. The court also can order any combination of those four payment methods.

As explained by the office of the Attorney General of Texas, all child support payments must be made through the Child Support Division. This Division also is responsible for the following:

  • Collecting and distributing child support monies
  • Enforcing child support orders
  • Locating absent parents
  • Establishing paternity

Both mothers and fathers can apply to the office of the Attorney General for child support as long as they have a valid divorce decree, separation agreement, child support order, or certain other documents. They cannot, however, choose which enforcement action will be taken.

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