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Enforcement Actions in IV-D Court

Court Basics

Learn what to expect if you are ordered to appear in an IV-D Court (also known as child support court).

This article does not explain every legal action that can happen in IV-D Court – just the most common ones and what may happen. Every case is different, so each experience will be as well.

Should I ask for a lawyer at an enforcement hearing?

Yes. If you have been served with a citation to appear in IV-D Court for an enforcement hearing, and you did not pay your ordered child support payments, you may be in contempt of court. Contempt can result in jail time.

The judge will inform you of your right to an attorney when you appear in court for the hearing. The judge may not let you testify until you have spoken to an attorney. This is a serious matter. For more information, read Texas Family Code 157.163.

If you are facing contempt, a lawyer may be appointed for you if you are:

  1. the non-paying respondent of child support (or obligor),
  2. the court finds that you may end up in jail as the final result of the hearing, and
  3. you are found to be low-income, or indigent, by the IV-D judge. 

If you are the parent who is owed back child support (obligee), you are not entitled to a lawyer. One will not be appointed for you. You may want to talk to a lawyer before appearing in court.

Remember: The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and the Domestic Relations Office (DRO) don’t represent either parent. If you hire a lawyer, talk to a lawyer familiar with child support enforcement cases.

If I am put on probation as a result of the enforcement hearing, how long will I be on probation?

You can be on probation for up to 10 years. You can shorten your probation by paying off the back child support you owe in full before 10 years.

While on probation, you will have to report to a probation officer monthly and pay current and back child support and medical support payments faithfully. For more information, read Texas Family Code 157.211 and157.212.

What if I don’t have a job? How can the IV-D Court order child support if I don’t have money?

The judge will assume that you make–or can make–minimum wage. All child support is based on minimum wage unless there is evidence that you have a job or you have underemployed yourself (taken a job that pays less to avoid paying a larger child support).

The OAG and the DRO will usually have proof of your current income available to them if you are working for someone else. If your income has recently changed, you must show evidence of that change.

Intentional unemployment or underemployment can be a different story. If an obligor could earn more money but chooses not to, the court can look at their earning potential.  

The court or the Title IV-D agency can order an unemployed or underemployed obligor to: 

  • Enroll and fully participate in a community program that provides employment assistance, skills training, or job placement services; or 

  • Work, have a plan to pay child support, or participate in work activities appropriate to pay their support obligation. 

Texas Family Code 154.017

To understand how much child support you should pay, talk to a lawyer. Read Texas Family Code 154.068, 154.122, and 154.125 for more information.

The person who has custody of my child won't let me see the child because I haven't paid child support. Do I tell the IV-D judge?

Yes. Do not be afraid to speak to the judge.

The payment of child support and visitation with the child are two separate issues. One has nothing to do with the other. Please read Texas Family Code 153.001 and 153.002 for more information.

A visitation schedule may be included in the child support order. You may have court-ordered visitation established, depending on the testimony and evidence presented in court by you and the other parent, or by agreement of the parties. Read Texas Family Code 153.003, 153.004, 153.005, 153.006, and 153.007 for more information. 

You can read the articles in Child Custody & Visitation for more detailed information.

Will I be responsible for attorneys' fees or court costs if I've been found to owe back child support in an enforcement hearing?

Yes, most likely. You, as the obligor, will most likely be responsible for attorney’s fees. This includes the work of the OAG, the DRO, for the lawyer appointed to represent you (if applicable), and for court costs (filing fees, etc.). You will usually be billed by the court for costs and attorneys’ fees later.

Should I bring evidence of payments I made to the other parent before there was a child support order?

Yes. Bring this evidence with you. It is important for you to show proof of the payments to the OAG and to the DRO. You may be given credit for these payments if you have evidence of them. Read Gathering and Presenting Evidence to learn about putting together your proof of payments and showing them to the court.

What if I don't want to go to before a IV-D judge alone?

If you do not want to go before an IV-D judge alone, there are resources available to help you find a lawyer.

What does "IV-D" refer to?

Title IV-D of the Social Security Act requires states to provide child support assistance, including:

  • locating noncustodial parents,
  • establishing paternity,
  • establishing and enforcing child support obligations, and
  • collecting child support payments. 

Related Guides

  • I need a custody order. I am the child's parent (SAPCR).

    Child Custody & Visitation

    This guide tells you how to ask for a custody, visitation, child support, medical support, and dental support order.
  • I need to change a custody, visitation, or support order (Modification).

    Child Custody & Visitation

    This guide tells you how to modify an existing custody, visitation, child support, and medical/dental support order.
  • I need a divorce. We have children under 18.

    Divorce

    How to get a divorce when you and your spouse have children younger than 18 (or still in high school).
  • Related Articles

    Related Forms

  • Low-Income Child Support Guidelines Handout

    FM-CS-800

    Tables explaining child support guidelines when the obligor has less than $1,000/month in net resources.