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NEW PUNISHMENT FOR CHILD SUPPORT OFFENDERS

The State of Texas will punish child support offenders in a new way: blocking their vehicle registration renewal.

The new punishment, which took effect on September 1st, will target offenders with at least six months of unpaid child support payments. The Texas Attorney General’s Office gave birth to the new punishment. The agency claims the new punishment didn’t require new legislation and is within the the authority it has under the Texas Family Law Code.

Parents will also receive a letter from the Child Support Division ahead of their vehicle registration's expiration date with information about steps they can take to remove the hold on their renewal.

The Texas Attorney General's Office has long led the nation in collecting child support payments. The office boasted that Texas had collected "more than $3.869 billion" in the past fiscal year and collected more money in child support than any state in the past nine years.

I have been practicing for over thirty years. It is amazing that a governmental agency has that kind of power- without even a Court hearing! I remember a time when the Attorney General’s office did not engage in family law. I, as a family attorney, have mixed feelings about the development of the AG’s litigation in the practice of family law. I do think that folks should pay their child support, but I also believe that the government should not instigate any proceedings. It would be a great public service for the Attorney General to have an office to respond to a person in need who calls and requests assistance. Unfortunately, that is not how it works. The Attorney General’s office actually initiates procedures without any request of a litigant. Often, they operate on bad information. I am fearful that there will be registrations withheld when no one is behind in their child support, or even if the parents have informal agreements (such as switching custody). More government is not always the solution.

Again, it is a brand new procedure so how it will play out is speculative. Will revisit this after it is in play for a bit! Hopefully, the benefits will outweigh the anticipated complications.

Written by
WENDY BURGOWER
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