Texas Senate Bill 869: Child Support Amendments for Improved Enforcement

Senate Bill 869, endorsed by the Texas Legislature and Governor Greg Abbott, introduces specific amendments to the Texas Family Code (TFC) aimed at improving the child support collection process in Texas. This update, proposed by the Child Support Division of the Texas State Attorney General’s Office, is set to take effect on September 1, 2023.

If you have questions about child support enforcement or questions about existing or future child support, please contact the Child Support Division of the Texas Attorney General’s Office.

If you would like to hire an attorney for representation in a child custody dispute that is intertwined with a child support issue, please schedule an exploratory call with The Blacknall Firm.

Overdue Child Support & Inheritance

When an individual with overdue child support payments comes into an inheritance, they are expressly forbidden from transferring this inherited property to another party. Instead, the law requires that the inheritance be used to settle the outstanding child support. To illustrate, let’s consider a scenario where a person named Alex, who has overdue child support, inherits $20,000 from a relative’s estate. Alex is not allowed to pass on this inheritance to a friend or a new partner as a strategy to avoid paying the overdue child support.

Electronic Signatures

The COVID pandemic saw a surge in the use of electronic signatures on a wide range of documents. With the amendment to TFC § 102.0091, these electronic signatures are now permitted on waivers of citation in a Suit Affecting Parent Child Relationship. This modification is anticipated to simplify the initiation of cases where a waiver of citation is utilized.

Changes to Email Address Requirements

The recent inclusion of email addresses, along with the obligation to update them when changes occur, in the mandatory language for all final orders in cases involving children has improved communication with parents. This modification not only facilitates contact after the original final order in a case but also simplifies the process of serving them in future cases. This is particularly useful when personal service is unsuccessful and substituted service via social media is permitted by the court.

Social Security Disability Lump Sum Payments

In a situation where both a parent and their child receive lump sum Social Security Disability payments, and the child’s payment is a direct result of the parent’s Social Security Disability, then the child’s payment can be used to offset any outstanding child support or medical expense payments owed by the parent. This addresses a loophole in TFC §§ 154.132 and 157.009 and introduces a new law that allows the lump sum Social Security Disability received by a child to be applied towards any existing child support arrearage. TFC § 154.132.

Child Support Arrearages Cannot Be Reduced

Unpaid child support payments, known as child support arrearages, cannot be reduced according to the updated Texas Family Code (TFC § 157.263). Regardless of who asks for a reduction, whether it’s the person who owes the child support or the recipient, the owed amount cannot be lowered. This change brings state law in line with federal law (42 U.S.C. §666(a)(9)(c) and 45 D.F.R. §303.106), ensuring compliance with legal obligations. The purpose of this amendment is to maintain consistency and clarity in enforcing child support payments for the well-being of the children involved.

Paternity Suits Without Biological Father’s Location

A recent amendment to TFC § 160.604 (c) has brought about an important change in paternity suits. Under this updated law, paternity suits can now continue even when the presumed father, identified through DNA testing as not being the biological father, cannot be found.

In legal terms, a presumed father refers to an individual who is assumed to be the father of a child based on certain circumstances, such as being married to the child’s mother at the time of birth or voluntarily acknowledging paternity. Despite the absence of the presumed father, the paternity suit can move forward to establish the true biological father of the child, ensuring that paternity issues can be resolved even in cases where the presumed father’s location is unknown.

Renewable Child Support Liens: No More Time Limit

The rules governing child support liens have changed. Previously, child support liens had a 10-year limit, but that limit no longer applies. Now, child support liens can remain in effect indefinitely. Moreover, expired child support liens on real property can be renewed. These changes, outlined in TFC § 157.312 and 157.318(d), ensure that child support arrears can be pursued and enforced without any time constraints, providing greater protection for the rights of the children involved.

Conclusion

If you need assistance with a child support issue only, contact the Child Support Division of the Texas Attorney General’s Office.  They can provide the necessary support and resources.

To discuss retaining our firm for your divorce or child custody case, please schedule a consultation with us today.