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What to Expect in Child Support (IV-D) Court

Child Support & Medical Support

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 does not 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.

Special thanks to Texas A&M University School of Law, Family Law and Veterans Advocacy Clinic for its contribution to this article.

What is IV-D Court?

The IV-D Court or child support court is a court where a judge makes decisions 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 must be filed with the court. The words “parentage” and “enforcement” will be in the titles of the documents filed.

The judge in an 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.

I have received a citation to appear in IV-D Court. What does this citation mean?

A citation is a court-issued command for you to appear before the judge in IV-D Court on a certain date and at a certain time. This is notice of a hearing. Do not ignore this. Talk to a lawyer if you have questions.

If your notice says that your hearing is virtual, you should read Virtual Court and Child Support (IV-D) for information on appearing virtually.

What do I do when I arrive at the courthouse?

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, any bags, and other handheld items into a tray so they can be scanned by an X-ray machine.

Who do I check in with to let the IV-D Court know I am here?

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 (OAG) 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.

How long does checking in take?

Checking in may take some time, so show up to court early. How long it takes to sign in will depend on how many people are scheduled to appear in IV-D Court that day and what time you arrive at the court.

Can I bring a lawyer to represent me in IV-D court?

Bringing a lawyer to represent your interests in IV-D Court is a great idea, and your case may be 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.

What happens after I check in with the clerk?

After you check in with the clerk, you can sit down. Wait for an Assistant Attorney General (AAG) or a lawyer from the county DRO to call your name. Once they do, you can meet with them to discuss the legal issue you are in court to resolve.

If you are represented by a lawyer, they will check in for you upon arrival. The AAG or the DRO will call out their name so they can meet and discuss the legal issue. Your attorney will speak on your behalf. You will not 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.

Can I bring my kids to the courthouse?

Do not bring children to court with you. Most courts will not allow children in the courtroom and the court staff will not watch your children for you. Try to find a babysitter or someone you trust to watch your children on your scheduled court date.

What if I show up in IV-D Court at the right date and time, but I want a lawyer, and haven’t had time to find one?

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 your 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 – not judges. They cannot make decisions about the case. Only the judge can do that.

Do not be afraid to speak to the judge. If you want to speak with a private attorney, most IV-D judges understand the respondent’s need for an attorney.

You may ask the judge questions, but the judge cannot give you advice. The judge can explain the law, but they 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 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.

Should I bring evidence to court of the insurance premiums I pay, either personally or through my employer, for the child?

If you are paying child support (known as the obligor) 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 (known as the obligee), 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.

Read Child Support, Medical Support, & Dental Support for more information on these obligations.

What should I bring to child support court?

You should bring proof of the following to court for your hearing:

  • Federal Income Taxes for the past 2 years;
  • Pay stubs;
  • Proof of a new job and its start date;
  • Proof of health insurance premiums paid for the child;
  • Proof of payment of child support to the obligee (canceled checks, money order receipts, etc.);
  • Proof of extra payments for child support (canceled checks, money order receipts, etc.);
  • Proof the children have been living with you and not the obligee;
  • Proof 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;
  • Proof 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.

What if there is no evidence about the obligor's income?

If there is no evidence about a party's resources, the court will consider relevant background circumstances regarding the obligor (person ordered to pay child support), such as their:

  • assets;
  • residence;
  • employment;
  • earnings history;
  • job skills;
  • educational attainment;
  • literacy;
  • age;
  • health;
  • criminal history;
  • barriers to employment; and
  • record of seeking work. 

The court will also consider job opportunities in the obligor's community; the current average wage in the obligor's community; and whether there are employers willing to hire the obligor.

Texas Family Code 154.0655(c).

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

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.

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. 

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