If you are the parent of a minor child in the State of Texas and you have been ordered to pay child support for that child it is imperative that you take your support obligation seriously because failing to pay child support can have serious negative consequences. In fact, it is even possible that you will go to jail for not paying child support in Texas. The worst thing you can do is ignore the problem if you find yourself unable to comply with the court order. It might be possible to modify your current support order or there may be an affirmative defense that could prevent you from ending up in jail; however, doing nothing is almost guaranteed to have unwanted consequences. Although only an experienced Texas family law attorney can provide you with specific advice regarding your situation, some general information about failing to pay child support in Texas may be beneficial in the meantime.
When the parents of a minor child go through a divorce, or when paternity is established for a child born out of wedlock, the State of Texas requires child support to be calculated and included in the proceedings. Once the Final Decree or Order of Paternity has been entered by the court, the provisions found within the documents become court orders, including the provision ordering that child support be paid by one parent to the other parent. Because child support is intended to be used for the care and maintenance of a minor child, the State of Texas has a continued interest in ensuring that the support obligation is paid according to the terms of the order. When that does not happen, the judicial system will step in and take enforcement action.
While sending a non-compliant parent to jail is certainly not the first, nor the preferred, course of action for a judge, it is an option. Texas Penal Code §25.05, makes it a felony for an individual to intentionally or knowingly fail to provide support for his or her child younger than 18 or for a child who is the subject of a court order for child support. If you are making $500,000 a year, for example, and simply refuse to pay your child support obligation the court might decide that is an intentional act of failing to pay support and pursue criminal charges against you. On the other hand, if you were making $50,000 a year, supporting other minor children, and were recently laid off, you may have an affirmative defense to an allegation that you intentionally failed to pay child support. It may also be possible to modify the current child support order if your situation and circumstances qualify.