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Frequently Asked Questions


Child support division mission statement

The Child Support Division in the Office of the Attorney General assists parents in obtaining the financial support necessary for children to grow up and succeed in life. To encourage parental responsibility, the Office of the Attorney General establishes paternity of children, establishes court orders for financial and medical support, and enforces support orders. The Attorney General promotes the involvement of both parents in the life of the child by working with community groups, schools, and hospitals. In the performance of their duties on behalf of Texas children, Child Support staff focus on efficiency, effectiveness, and customer service.

Custodial parents can call the 24-hour hotline at (800) 252-8014 to receive automated information. With their customer identification numbers (CIN), they can now receive information on payments and case status without having to wait for a case worker.

This website also contains an interactive child support section. Click on the "Child Support Interactive" banner above and you will be able to visit the secure site to receive updates on your case.

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Services

What does the child support program do?
As the designated Title IV-D agency, the Office of the Attorney General is responsible for:

  • locating absent parents;
  • establishing paternity;
  • establishing, enforcing and modifying child and medical support orders and
  • collecting and distributing child support monies.
Who can apply for child support services and what is the fee?
The Attorney General’s office accepts applications from mothers, fathers, and other individuals who have possession of a child. Our attorneys represent the State of Texas in providing child support services and do not represent either parent in the case.

Applicants do not have the right to select what enforcement actions are taken in their cases. The Office of the Attorney General is required to provide all appropriate services for the benefit of the children.

Temporary Assistance to Needy Family (TANF) recipients automatically receive child support services, but persons who do not receive TANF must apply for Title IV-D child support services. There is no fee to apply for child support services provided by the Office of the Attorney General.

Where do people apply for child support services with the Office of the Attorney General?
The Child Support Division of the Office of the Attorney General operates field offices throughout the state at which people may apply for services. The telephone numbers and addresses for these offices are in local telephone books or click here.

You can also request an application for services by calling our toll free telephone number at (800) 252-8014 or you can apply for services on-line by clicking here. An applicant who is deaf or hard of hearing can call our Deaf Outreach Program at TDD (512) 460-6417 or (512) 460-6399 voice.

How long before payments begin?
Obtaining child support involves a wide variety of factors, making it difficult to predict the time required to secure payments on individual cases. For example, one case may require the full range of services — locating the absent parent, establishing paternity and a support order, and enforcing the order. Another case may have a divorce decree with an established order, a social security number, and an employer for the non-custodial parent, allowing enforcement of payment through an administrative income withholding order.

What information does the Office of the Attorney General need to locate a non-custodial parent?
The most important information an applicant can provide, aside from the non-custodial parent’s current address, is the name and address of the non-custodial parent’s current employer. If the current employer is not known, the name and address of the last known employer should be provided.

Additionally, the following information about the non-custodial parent should be made available:

  • social security number and date of birth;
  • names and addresses of relatives and friends;
  • names of banks or creditors such as utility companies;
  • names of organizations, unions or clubs to which the non-custodial parent belongs
  • and places where the non-custodial parent spends free time.
What documents are needed by the Office of the Attorney General?
If available, child support applicants should submit copies of the following:
  • copy of the divorce decree, separation agreement or court order for child support;
  • copy of the acknowledgment of paternity, if one has been signed;
  • the birth certificate(s) of the child(ren) involved;
  • all documents that may reflect both parents' incomes and assets (paycheck stubs, tax returns, bank statements, etc.) and
  • evidence of child support payment history.
How do TANF recipients seek child support?
To receive TANF benefits through the Texas Department of Human Services, recipients must cooperate with the Office of the Attorney General’s efforts to identify the child(ren)’s non-custodial parent and collect child support.

TANF recipients must also assign to the State the right to collect child support. All payments collected in the case while the family receives TANF benefits are applied toward reimbursing the state and federal governments for TANF benefits received by the family. However, the family will receive up to $50 a month as a supplemental TANF payment during the months that child support is paid. When the family goes off TANF, all current support payments are sent to the custodial parent.

What if a person no longer wants the Office of the Attorney General's services?
If the parent is not on TANF and wishes to discontinue child support enforcement services, the case can be closed by written request, provided there are no arrears owed by the non-custodial parent that are assigned to the State.

How can child support be changed?
Only the Court can modify the child support order. It cannot be done by agreement of the parties. Grounds for a modification include a material and substantial change in the circumstances of a child or a person affected by the order, or the passage of three years since the last child support order and a difference in monthly payment by either 20 percent or $100 from the child support guidelines. A parent subject to a child support order may request a review of the ordered child support amounts every three years by contacting the Office of the Attorney General.

What if the non-custodial parent is still in school an has no money?
Remember, a non-custodial parent is responsible for supporting his or her child even if that parent is still a minor. The judge will look at a young parent’s income while he or she is still in school and decide how much support must be paid.

The non-custodial parent’s income can be reviewed again after he or she has finished school and begins working. The judge will decide what changes need to be made in the child support payment.

Paternity

If an unmarried father is already paying support, is it necessary to establish paternity?
Yes. Even though the child’s father is providing support, he may change his mind, become disabled, or even die. In most cases, unmarried parents can ensure certain benefits for their children only if paternity has been established.

Children who are supported by only one parent often do not have enough money for even basic needs. Every child is entitled to financial support and other resources from both parents.

The custodial parent, the child, and the child’s doctor need to know whether the child has inherited any diseases or disorders, many of which may not be detected at birth or in childhood. Doctors can better treat a child if they know the full medical history of the family.

If paternity has been established, a child has a legal father and will have the possible right of inheritance from both parents. The child may also be eligible for other benefits such as Social Security, medical insurance, life insurance and veteran’s benefits.

How does paternity establishment affect custody and visitation?
Each parent has the duty to financially and emotionally support his or her child. Each parent is presumed to possess the right to custody or visitation. If the parents cannot agree, custody, child support, and visitation will be decided by a court. Both parties must obey the court order. In other words, one parent cannot refuse to pay support because the other parent is refusing visitation and vice versa.

How is paternity established?
Paternity may be voluntarily established by agreement of both the mother and the father of the child. The parents can sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP), which becomes a legal finding of paternity when it is filed with the Bureau of Vital Statistics. If the mother or alleged father is not sure about the paternity of the child, neither should sign an AOP. Paternity should be established through the courts.

What happens if the father signs the Acknowledgment of Paternity?
A law that became effective on September 1, 1999, states that if the father and mother have signed the AOP, the biological father becomes the legal father. This makes the father legally responsible for paying child support if he lives apart from the child and enables the court to grant him visitation or custody. In order to obtain child support and visitation rights that are enforceable, a parent must go to either a child support office or a private attorney.

Where can we get an Acknowledgment of Paternity form?
Parents should be able to get the AOP form at the hospital. Parents can also call the Bureau of Vital Statistics at (512) 458-7393 or the Office of Attorney General Paternity Opportunity Program at (210) 804-6484 to obtain a form. In addition, AOP forms are available at the local child support office or the local birth registrar.

What if the father wants to sign the Acknowledgment of Paternity but cannot come to the hospital?
Sometimes parents are not able to do everything necessary to acknowledge paternity while the mother and baby are still at the hospital. If this happens, the parents may sign the AOP before the baby is born or sign it later at a certified entity like a child support office or local office of vital statistics.

When the AOP is complete, it should be mailed to:

Bureau of Vital Statistics
1100 W. 49th Street
Austin, TX 78756-3191
If the AOP is mailed after BVS has received the birth certificate from the hospital, BVS will charge a fee to add the father’s name to the birth certificate.

What if the mother is married to someone other than the biological father?
Even if the biological father signs the AOP, he will not be named on the birth certificate or be the legal father unless the mother’s husband signs a Denial of Paternity. If the husband does not sign the Denial of Paternity, the biological parents must either visit a child support office or go to a private attorney to file a paternity legal action.

What if the mother is not sure who the father is?
If the mother applies for services or is referred to the Child Support Division to establish paternity, she will be asked questions about men who may have fathered the child. It is very important for the mother to provide as much information as she can to help determine the father’s identity.

Paternity may be established even if the father is still in school or if he lives in another state.

What if the pregnancy was unplanned?
Texas law says that both parents are responsible for supporting their children. Just as the mother is responsible for the child even if the pregnancy was not planned, so is the father. This means that once the court determines the identity of the biological father, the man must help support his child.

What if the father does not believe it is his child?
He may ask for scientific paternity testing. A court will examine the results of the paternity test and then decide whether the alleged father is the biological father.

Who pays for the paternity test?
If the Child Support Division files the case, the Office of the Attorney General will pay for the test. If the alleged father is found to be the biological father of the child, he may be ordered to repay the cost of the test.

What if the father or mother changes his or her mind and no longer wants to acknowledge paternity after filing an AOP?
Either parent has 60 days from the time the AOP is filed at the Bureau of Vital statistics to rescind the acknowledgment and remove the father’s name from the birth certificate. One of the parents must file a Petition to Rescind with the court. Even after 60 days, one of the parents may file a motion to challenge the AOP, but will be required to prove fraud, duress, or mistake of fact. Any such suit must be filed within four years of the AOP being filed with the Bureau of Vital Statistics.

Enforcement

What if the child's non-custodial parent lives in another state?
The law requires states to cooperate with each other. The non-custodial parent is legally required to make regular child support payments, no matter where he or she lives.

What if the non-custodial parent gets behind in child support payments or refuses to pay?
If a non-custodial parent does not pay child support, he or she is subject to enforcement measures to collect regular and past-due payments. The Child Support Division uses many techniques to enforce child support orders, including:

  • requiring employers to deduct court-ordered child support from the non-custodial parent's paycheck through wage withholding;
  • intercepting federal income tax refund checks, lottery winnings, or other money that may be due from state or federal sources;
  • filing liens against his or her property or other assets;
  • suspending driver’s, professional, and hunting and fishing licenses; and
  • filing a lawsuit against the non-custodial parent asking the court to enforce its order.
A judge may sentence a nonpaying parent to jail and enter a judgment for past due child support.

License Suspension

Who is affected by the license suspension law?
Non-custodial parents who hold a state license, owe more than three months of past-due child support, and are not in compliance with an existing court-ordered or voluntary repayment schedule face license suspension.

What types of licenses are usually suspended?
Most adults have a driver’s licenses. Computer matches can determine which obligors have other licenses and permits ranging from medical, dental, and law licenses to hunting and fishing licenses.

How many licensing agencies are involved?
The statute identifies 60 licensing agencies. However, this list is not exclusive. For example, “licensing authority” includes political subdivisions and any other board or agency not listed by name.

How does the process work?
The Attorney General’s Child Support Division matches its caseload with computer tapes from different licensing agencies. When the match shows an obligor who meets the statutory criteria for license suspension as holding one or more of the identified licenses, the Office of the Attorney General will provide the license holder with a warning and an opportunity to resolve the outstanding delinquency.

If the obligor fails to respond, the Child Support Division will confirm the location of the obligor and other information necessary to suspend the license and then refer the case for administrative or judicial prosecution.

Custody and Visitation

Can a parent take custody of the child instead of making child support payments?
Both parents must provide for the child, no matter which parent has primary custody. Child support is normally paid to the custodial parent for the benefit of the child. Legal custody can be changed, but only if the parents go to court to modify the previous child support order and establish a child support amount for the new non-custodial parent.

Does the Office of the Attorney General handle custody and visitation disputes?
Federal regulations do not allow the Office of the Attorney General to provide services for custody or visitation disputes. The Attorney General encourages mediation of these issues, and most cases are resolved by agreement. In the rare case where custody and/or visitation are contested, the Office of the Attorney General encourages each parent to hire a private attorney.

If you cannot afford a lawyer, you may be eligible for federally funded legal assistance. Look in the phone book under “Legal Aid” or “Legal Services.” Sometimes the court will appoint a lawyer for the child. Also, many law schools operate legal clinics at which law students assist people under the supervision of a law professor or other lawyer. Contact the law school nearest you for more information.

Is a non-custodial parent entitled to visit the child if he or she is not paying child support?
Child support and visitation rights are separate issues. The court will determine both and will usually order the non-custodial parent to pay child support and the custodial parent to make the child available for visits.

The custodial parent has a duty to obey the court order for visitation, even if the non-custodial parent cannot or will not pay child support. The court can enforce its orders against either parent.

Private Child Support Collection Agencies

Can any other agency handle child support enforcement cases?
In Texas, county-operated domestic relations or child support offices, private attorneys, and private collection agencies also provide some child support enforcement services.

Private agencies do charge for their services. If you use the services of a private child support collection agency, be sure that you fully understand any contract that you sign. If you receive free child support services from the Child Support Division and these services result in your collecting money from a non-custodial parent, your contract with a private agency may obligate you to pay the private agency a portion of the collected money even if that agency was not instrumental in the collection.

Can a private child support collection agency process my case faster?
The majority of the Child Support Division’s incoming cases do not have established paternity or child support orders. These cases take longer to process than cases with established paternity and child support orders. Private child support collection agencies and county domestic relations offices generally handle only cases with established paternity and existing child support orders.

The Office of the Attorney General is required to provide child support services to all families applying for services and to all families receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). Moreover, the Child Support Division provides a full range of child support services. The Division’s caseload is very large — much larger than that of any private collection agency. A private agency may therefore be able to process some cases more quickly. This factor must be balanced against the cost of using a private agency.


As mandated by Title IV-D of the Social Security Act of 1975 and designated by the State of Texas, the Office of the Attorney General is responsible for the establishment and enforcement of child support. The Office of the Attorney General represents the State of Texas and cannot represent individuals involved in child support suits.

General Program Information
Acronyms & Glossary
Child Support Interactive
Employers
Evaders
Forms & Contacts
Frequently Asked Questions
Handbook for Non-Custodial Parents
Community Services & Volunteer Program
Parental Rights and Responsibilities
Paternity Establishment
Resources for Single Parents
Vendors & OAG Staff