Does child support have to go through the attorney general?

A lot of clients and potential clients do not want to send child support through the attorney general’s office. The reasons vary from personal preference, wariness of government oversight, and a desire to maintain control over child support payments going to the other parent.

In Texas, child support must be paid through the Attorney General’s State Disbursement Unit. See Texas Family Code 154.003. A Judge must require the child support to be paid in this manner. Withholding orders taking the funds directly from a paycheck is also required. Depending on the Judge in your case, they may allow parties to agree to no formal “child support” but instead for the parties to share specific child related costs, i.e., daycare, after school care, or extracurricular activities. Some Judges have a distrust of such arrangements. Oversight is less stringent and proof of payment, or lack of payment, is much harder. This is especially true if the parent who would be paying child support is a high earner and the one receiving is a low earner. Such requests make the Judge suspect one side is just trying to get out of paying child support and taking advantage of the lower earning spouse.

Paying child support through the attorney general allows them to track the payments coming in, calculate past-due amounts, and track interest on the past-due amounts. It makes enforcements much easier to have a quick reference for how much is actually owed or not owed. Having formal child support also allows the funds to be automatically withheld from a paycheck through a withholding order, which solves a lot of non-payment problems.

In short, guideline child support is required to be cycled through the Attorney General’s child support office. There are ways around it, but Judges are wary of such games for fear that the custodial parent might be being taken advantage of by the more dominant parent.

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