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What Happens If I Don't Pay Court-ordered Child Support?

Every year in Texas, thousands of parents separate, leading to Court proceedings over custody, visitation and child support for their children.  Inevitably, one of the parents is ordered by the  Judge to pay child support.  Very specific provisions are made in the Court order as to the amount due each month, the deadline for payment, and the place of payment.  Failure to pay timely can result in serious consequences that the Court has power to impose.  The types of consequences to be assessed is very case-specific, and the consequences a Judge may impose will vary depending on the reason for non-payment, the duration of the history of non-payment and the total amount of arrears.  Today's blog post will outline the various types of consequences that can occur for non-payment of child support.


Contempt is the most powerful consequence for non-payment of support.  The Court has power to find that the child support obligor is in contempt of Court, and punish the person with a jail sentence and a fine.  Unless the failure to pay is intentional or repeated, Judges typically suspend the actual commitment for the jail sentence.  Timely making payments toward the arrearages will allow the obligor to stay out of jail, but if the terms of the suspended commitment are not complied with, the obligor will spend significant time in jail.  This risk highly motivates the obligor to timely make payments.


The Judge can determine the amount of arrears owed, and enter judgment against the obligor for the balance owed.  This judgment bears interest at the Texas statutory rate of 6 percent.  The obligor then will have to pay all of the amounts owed plus interest.  The judgment is subject to execution, which means that the Sheriff's Department will take possession of and sell all personal property owned by the obligor and use the proceeds to satisfy the judgment. Typical exemptions from execution do not exist if the judgment is a child support judgment.

Foreclosure of Real Property

If the obligor owns real property that is not a homestead, the Sheriff can sell the property at a foreclosure sale, and the proceeds will be distributed to the obligee for satisfaction of the child support judgment.

Liens and Levy

All property owned by the obligor is subject to a child support lien.  For example, if the obligor owns a bank account, the obligor can send notice to the financial institution of the child support lien, and the bank then has to "freeze" the account and hold all funds on deposit.  The notice of lien can be sent to the bank before any notice to the obligor, in order to avoid the obligor removing the funds.  Then, after proper notice to the obligor, the bank will be required to send funds to the obligee to satisfy the child support lien.

Suspension of Licenses

If the obligor fails to make court-ordered payments to satisfy a child support judgment, the obligee can ask the Court for an order suspending all state-issued licenses, such as driver's license, hunting/fishing licenses and professional licenses.

Texas law offers many valuable tools and remedies for obtaining full payment.  If you are a custodial parent and are owed past due child support, the child support collection attorneys at Christiansen Law Firm can assist you in collecting all of the child support that is owed, plus interest.  If you are a  non-custodial parent and owe past due child support, the attorneys of Christiansen Law Firm can advise you of your rights and help to resolve the problem with the least severe consequences and with as little stress as possible, including proper calculation of the actual amount owed, obtaining proper credit and offsets for extra possession of the children and direct payments made, and negotiating repayment details that are financially workeable and avoid jail time.  Christiansen Law Firm has extensive experience assisting parents on both sides of a child support enforcement matter, and can agressivly work to protect your interests.    Contact the attorneys of Christiansen Law Firm in Houston or San Antonio for additional information.  



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