What to Expect in Child Support Court (IV-D Court)
This article explains what to expect if you are ordered to appear in a IV-D Court (also known as child support court). This article should not be considered legal advice, and doesn’t replace legal advice. It won’t explain every legal action that can happen in IV-D Court—just the most common ones. Every case is different, so each experience is different. Hopefully this article can give you an idea of what might happen and what to expect.
If, after reading this article, you decide you don’t want to go to before a IV-D judge alone, there are resources available to help you find a lawyer. The State Bar of Texas website has a “find a lawyer” section, plus a Lawyer Referral and Information Service. Your county might have a lawyer referral service. You can find that information on the internet or in a phone book.
The IV-D Court or child support court is a court where a judge can make a decision on many issues, primarily:
- Whether a man is or isn’t the father of a child; and
- Whether a parent should go to jail or face other penalties for not paying court-ordered child support, medical child support, or health insurance premiums.
For any of these legal actions to begin, documents such as a Suit to Determine Parentage or a Motion for Enforcement are filed with the court. The words “parentage” and “enforcement” will be in the titles of the documents filed.
The judge in a IV-D Court can also decide if:
- There is evidence that a previous child support order should be modified to either lower or increase a child support payment;
- There is evidence that a previous child support order should be modified to either lower or increase a health insurance payment or cost of medical child support; and
- A possession and access order, with holidays and vacations included, needs to be established.
When you first arrive at the courthouse, ask security where the IV-D Court is located in the building. Be ready to remove your shoes, belts, chunky jewelry, watches, etc., so you can walk through a metal detector without the detector buzzing. You must place your cell phone, briefcase and other handheld items into a tray so it can be scanned by an X-ray machine.
Once you find the IV-D Court you are scheduled to be in, sign in with the clerk from the Office of the Attorney General (AG) or with the clerk assigned from your county’s Domestic Relations Office (DRO). This is how the court will know you are present in court for your hearing.
Bringing a lawyer to represent your interests in IV-D Court is a great idea, and you might also get your case worked on faster. Respondents with lawyers are usually seen first, no matter when they check in with the clerk. Tell the clerk you have a lawyer with you when you check in.
After you have checked in with the clerk, sit down. Wait for an Assistant Attorney General (AAG) or a lawyer from the Domestic Relations Office (DRO) in your county to call your name so you can meet with them to discuss the legal issue you are in court to resolve.
If you are represented by a lawyer, he or she will check in upon arrival. The AAG or the DRO will call out their name so they can meet and discuss the legal issue you are in court to resolve. Your attorney will speak on your behalf. You won't speak to the AAG or the DRO without your lawyer being present.
If you don’t have a lawyer to represent you, expect to wait several hours before your case is called.
Talk to the AAG or the DRO officer about getting a continuance of the hearing to a later date so you can hire a lawyer to represent you. If the AAG or the DRO lawyer says “no” to the continuance request, tell the AAG or the DRO lawyer that you want to speak directly to the judge. The AAG or the DRO officer are lawyers. They are not judges. They cannot make decisions about the case. Only the judge can do that.
Don’t be afraid to speak to the judge. If you want to speak to a private attorney, most IV-D judges understand the respondent’s need for an attorney.
Also, you can ask the judge questions, but the judge cannot advise you. The judge can explain the law, but he or she will not give you advice or tell you what you should do. Remember, it is best to have a consultation with a lawyer before you go to IV-D/child support court.
If you do not understand what the AAG or the DRO has given you to sign, ask for a continuance from the judge so you can consult with a lawyer. Don’t feel pressured to sign documents you don’t understand. After you sign a document, you cannot use the excuse that you “did not understand what you were signing” to the judge to change an order.
If you are paying child support and have been paying for health insurance premiums for the child, bring evidence of that monthly payment to court. The payment can work as a credit and lower your child support by several dollars.
If you receive child support, bring evidence of the health insurance premium you pay for the child monthly so you can be reimbursed. This payment is the obligor’s responsibility. But it is your responsibility as the obligee to maintain the insurance.
Checklist for IV-D Court
- Federal Income Taxes for the past 2 years;
- Pay stubs;
- Evidence of a new job and its start date;
- Evidence of health insurance premiums paid for the child;
- Evidence of payment of child support to the obligee (canceled checks, money order receipts, etc.);
- Evidence of extra payments for child support (canceled checks, money order receipts, etc.);
- Evidence the children have been living with you and not the obligee;
- Evidence that you and the obligee have been living together with the children—a lease, an electric bill, etc.;
- Benefits award letter if you receive Social Security Supplemental Income;
- Benefits award letter if you receive Veterans Compensation or Pension;
- Evidence you are paying for, or can begin to pay for, health insurance for the child through your employer;
- Any other evidence that can show you have provided financial support to the children;
- Evidence that you have been seeking employment; or
- Evidence you have filed for either Social Security or Veterans Benefits.
These are not the only items you should bring to the IV-D court. Always bring a form of identification. If you have other items that can prove your testimony to the court is true, bring them with you.