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Why You're In Child Support (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. 

I'm the parent who needs child support and I requested services from the AG. Why am I a respondent?

Each parent or conservator is a respondent in a lawsuit filed by the Office of the Attorney General (AG) or Domestic Relations Office (DRO). This is true even for someone who is seeking child support. No parents or conservators are the AG’s or DRO’s clients. Parties in a child support suit can represent themselves, or hire their own lawyers.

Why is the AG or the DRO suing me for child support?

The Office of the Attorney General provides services to parents or persons who want support for the children in their physical custody. You can find out more about the Office of the Attorney General’s role by going to www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/cs/about-child-support-program.

If your county has established a Domestic Relations Office (DRO), this office does the same thing that the AG’s office does, but for the county.

The AG or DRO is automatically involved in the child support cases of children whose parents or caregivers currently receive or have received social services such as TANF, food stamps or Medicaid for the children. The AG and the DRO can begin the process of establishing child support from the non-paying parent without being asked by the parent or person who has physical custody of the children. Read Texas Family Code sections 203.001 and 231.002 for more information.

If no social services have been accepted by the parent or person who has physical possession of the child, a request can still be made to the AG or DRO to help establish support for the child or to enforce a support order.

The custodial parent promised not to put me on child support, so why was this suit filed?

If the person caring for your children currently receives (or received) TANF, food stamps, or Medicaid for the care of those children, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) or the county Domestic Relations Office (DRO) will seek support from the parent not living with the children. They want repayment to the state for those social services. Medicaid isn't free, so the obligor will usually be ordered to reimburse the state for it.

Don’t be upset with the other parent (or person who has custody of your child) if you're cited to appear in court for child support or related issues. Parents must support their children financially. Most times the OAG or the DRO—not the other parent—began the process of getting a support order. Being upset or angry with the other parent for your nonpayment is unreasonable, and makes the situation stressful for all.

Who will work on the IV-D case?

The Office of the Attorney General’s Child Support Division (AG) will work the case and will appear before the judge as a representative of the state in the IV-D Court to establish paternity, child support, medical support, etc. The AG also enforces payment of child support and maintenance of insurance and medical support. Simply put, the AG keeps track of child support payments and reviews orders to make sure child support and medical support and/or health insurance reimbursements are being made. You can find out more about the Office of the Attorney General’s role by going to www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/cs/parents-and-guardians.

Some counties have a Domestic Relations Office (DRO) that does the same job. An attorney for the DRO will appear in the same role as the AG. If your county has a DRO, go to your county’s website to learn about the DRO.

What is a respondent?

A respondent is a person who is being sued by another party (a petitioner). Usually, with a IV-D Court, that petitioner may be either the Office of the Attorney General–Child Support Division (AG) or the county’s Domestic Relations Office (DRO).

What is a CP?

A CP is the custodial parent. This is the parent who has physical custody of the child most of the time. The noncustodial parent is usually either a possessory conservator or a joint managing conservator of the child. 

What is an NCP?

An NCP is a noncustodial parent. This is typically the parent (or other person) who has physical custody of the child for a smaller amount of time than the custodial parent (also called the primary managing conservator).

What is an obligee?

An obligee is the parent or person who is court ordered to receive child support from a parent of a child.

What is an obligor?

An obligor is the parent who is court ordered to pay child support to a parent or person (obligee) for the care of the child.

Can I see the judge before I sign the child support order?

Yes, you can see the judge before signing a draft of an order the Office of the Attorney General or Domestic Relations Office has given you. You can ask the judge questions, but the judge cannot advise you. The judge can explain the law, but won't give you advice, or tell you what you should do.

If you don't understand what the OAG or the DRO has given you to sign, ask the judge for a continuance so you can talk to a lawyer. Don’t feel pressured to sign documents you don’t understand. Don’t sign documents you don’t understand. After you sign a document, you can't use the excuse that you “did not understand what you were signing” to the judge to change an order.