Child Support

State governments have tried a variety of methods for incentivizing people who are delinquent on child support payments to pay up, with varying degrees of success. Texas is implementing a new -- and what they hope will be a powerful -- incentive beginning in December.

According to a spokeswoman for the Texas Attorney General's Office, those who haven't paid their court-ordered child support for at least six months in a row won't be able to renew their vehicle registrations until they've agreed to begin a repayment plan, putting at least some money down up front. Texans will see these warnings on their vehicle registration renewal notices, which are mailed out at least 90 days before the registration expires.

Technological Improvements Have Allowed Implementation of This Requirement

The state already has the authority to deny vehicle registration renewals to people who aren't making their payments. However, until recently, they haven't had the technological capability to link child support delinquencies to motor vehicle records.

Texas has used other incentives, such as driver's license suspensions and denial of professional and recreational licenses. However, officials don't have records to show how effective those methods have been.

Critics Point Out Problems with the Mandate

The new practice has not received unanimous endorsement. One former family law attorney points out an inherent problem with denying someone the use of one's vehicle: "If people lose their ability to drive their car, I find it highly unlikely they will be able to pay unless they get in their car to go to work." One county tax accessor-collector notes that the new program will give these offices more traffic than they can handle; it's uncertain how many registrations this will impact each month, although the estimate is between 1,000 and 2,000.

Seeking Legal Help if You Can't Make Your Payments Is Crucial

The penalties for not paying child support in full and on time can have wide-ranging consequences. If you are unable to meet your responsibilities due to a change in your financial situation such as the loss of a job, it's essential that you and your family law attorney report this to the court and request a change in your payments, at least temporarily. Even if you and your co-parent have privately reached an agreement to lessen or suspend your payments, you can find yourself in legal jeopardy if the change isn't made through the courts.

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