Can Child Support Be Paid Directly to the Custodial Parent? Can a Non-Custodial Parent Make Payments in Cash?
Like all other states, Texas mandates that when a couple divorces, they must both continue to provide financial support to any minor children. There is no fixed support amount—child support orders are determined on a case-by-case basis using the income of each parent. The court may “impute” a certain amount of income to either parent if that parent is not earning as much as he or she reasonably has the capacity to earn. Support may also be adjusted based on the amount of time each parent spends with the child.
There are a number of ways to make child support payments in Texas, including by debit or credit card, cash or money order, bank auto-draft, and income withholding. Payments also can be sent by mail or made at child-support kiosk locations.
A withholding order from a court requires an employer to take a certain amount out of the non-custodial parent’s regular wages and send it to the Texas Child Support Disbursement Unit (SDU). The SDU then forwards the payment to the custodial parent.
Is a Withholding Order Mandatory for Child Support?
Under Texas law, the court must sign and issue a withholding order in every divorce proceeding where child support is ordered. In some situations, however, the parties agree not to send the withholding order to the non-custodial parent’s employer, choosing instead to have the non-custodial parent make payments directly to the custodial parent.
This arrangement may work for both parties but the fact that the withholding order is in place puts the non-custodial parent at significant risk, even it’s not sent to their employer. As long as the custodial and non-custodial parent have no disagreements or conflicts, and the custodial parent does not notify the Texas Attorney General’s Office, everything is fine. The AG’s office only pursues enforcement actions when notified by a custodial parent that support is not being paid.
However, if any controversy arises between the parents, the custodial parent can quickly turn to the Texas Attorney Generals Office and allege (truthfully or falsely) that the non-custodial parent has not been making child support payments. The non-custodial parent must then prove to the AG’s office that those payments were made.
Can a Non-Custodial Parent Make Child Support Payments in Cash?
While there’s nothing to prevent a non-custodial parent from making payments in cash, it can have disastrous consequences unless you have a way to reliably and accurately document the payments made. It can be awkward or uncomfortable to require your ex to provide you with a written receipt every time you make a child support payment, but if you don’t, you may have little or no evidence that you made child support payments. Without credible evidence that you made the required payments, the court may have little choice but to rule that you haven’t and assess an arrearage. Even if you do prevail, you’ll likely spend a significant amount in legal and court fees to prove that you paid the support.
One common reason many non-custodial parents give for making payments directly, rather than through income withholding, is that they are self-employed and have an irregular income. In those instances, you can have the income withholding order sent to yourself, as the business owner, and then make payments through the SDU. That will ensure that you don’t pay child support twice.
Contact the Divorce and Family Law Attorneys at Bailey & Galyen
At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we offer a free initial consultation to every client. For an appointment with an experienced Texas estate planning attorney, contact us by e-mail or call our offices at 844-402-2992. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.