Avoid a Common Child Support Pitfall: Do NOT Make Child Support Payments Directly to the Receiving Conservator

Every order that requires one party (Obligor) to pay child support to another party (Obligee) will outline how the Oblligor is to make payments.  It will say the following:

Payment – IT IS ORDERED that all payments shall be made through the state disbursement unit at Texas Child Support Disbursement Unit, P.O. Box 659791, San Antonio, Texas 78265-9791, and thereafter promptly remitted to OBLIGEE for the support of the child.

As parties go through the process of a divorce, parentage action, or modification, they often soon learn, that it can take some time for the wage withholding orders to take effect.  As such a transition period often stretches the financial situation of both parties, the delay in receipt of child support can be a concern. Sometimes OBLIGORs take it upon themselves, to pay or give the child support directly to the OBLIGEE in an effort to make things smoother, to not be counted late, or to make sure that the parent with primary custody has the funds necessary to provide for the children. However, every order that obligates one party to pay child support will include the following provision:

No Credit for Informal Payments-IT IS ORDERED that the child support as prescribed in this decree shall be exclusively discharged in the manner ordered and that any direct payments made by OBLIGOR  to OBLIGEE or any expenditures incurred by OBLIGOR during OBLIGOR’s periods of possession of or access to the child, as prescribed in this decree, for food, clothing, gifts, travel, shelter, or entertainment are deemed in addition to and not in lieu of the support ordered in this decree.

So, by doing what the OBLIGOR thinks is the “right” thing- i.e. paying the OBLIGEE directly, the OBLIGOR has put him or herself in danger of not receiving credit for the child support paid directly to the OBLIGEE.  By the time money starts coming out of their checks, the State Disbursement Unit will have the OBLIGOR already in arrears in their records. In order to get proper credit for the payments that were made directly, the OBLIGOR now has to rely on the OBLIGEE to execute an affidavit acknowledging that he or she has received the child support that was not paid through the Disbursement Unit and to send it with the proper information to the proper location.  Additionally, the OBLIGOR then has to rely on the Office of the Attorney General to properly credit the account in a timely manner. While all of this is happening, the Office of the Attorney General has the ability to take a number of actions to collect what in the eyes of the State is unpaid child support, including, but not limited to, the garnishing of your tax refund or placing a lien on property you may own.

There are steps that you and your attorney can take to protect or assist you during the transition phase and the time between the reaching of an agreement and the effect of a wage-withholding order.  However, unless you have previously discussed these options with your attorney and are satisfied that adequate protections are in place, send your payment directly to the state disbursement unit at Texas Child Support Disbursement Unit, P.O. Box 659791, San Antonio, Texas 78265-9791.

For more information, or to discuss what possible options would apply in your specific case, please consult an attorney to discuss the issue.  Also, the Child Support Division of the Office of the Attorney General of Texas has a very informative site that can be helpful and which also contains the forms mentioned in this blog. (https://texasattorneygeneral.gov/cs/welcome-to-the-child-support-division) (https://texasattorneygeneral.gov/cs/parents-and-guardians)>

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