How to File for Child Support in Texas
- What are the steps to file for child support in Texas?
- What if you and your ex can't collaborate?
- What else is needed?
In marriage, you likely share most things with your spouse. In divorce, you split your obligations into two different households. Child support is often part of this process.
Child support payments allow non-custodial parents to provide food, housing, education, healthcare, and other critical assets to their children while they live with their custodial parent.
Filing for child support is part of the divorce process for couples who share children. Many steps are involved, but if you work together, you can shorten the process and ensure your family thrives.
Steps to file for child support in Texas (uncontested divorce)
During the divorce process, you ask the court to rule on a child support agreement. If you can collaborate with your spouse on these forms, your case is likely will move forward more quickly.
Several steps are involved. Here are the steps to take if you have an uncontested divorce:
Step 1: Fill out a divorce petition
One person starts the divorce process, even when both parties agree to it. Download the Texas divorce petition for people with children, and fill it out.
Since you're starting the divorce, you are the Petitioner, and your spouse is the Respondent.
Step 2: File the divorce petition
Find the courthouse in your county, and contact the clerk to make sure divorces are processed there. Make two copies of your petition, and bring all three documents to the clerk at the courthouse. The clerk will stamp and date your documents, keep one copy, and give you the other two. They will ask you if your spouse must be served with those documents. (See Step 3 for further information.)
Step 3: Ask your spouse to waive service
In an uncontested divorce, neither party is surprised by the impending split. Therefore, your spouse might elect to waive the service of the divorce petition. If this interests both of you, ask your spouse to download the Waiver of Service form and bring it to the court you're using. Your spouse can fill out this document in front of a notary at the courthouse to prove their awareness of the divorce.
Step 4: Fill out and sign final documents
Texas requires a 60-day cooling-off period for most divorces. Contact the court to ask when your hearing will be scheduled. Prepare for it by filling out the required documents.
- The Final Divorce Decree contains many details about your estate, your children, and child support. Fill out this document with your partner.
- You may need to fill out the Income Withholding for Support form, detailing how you'll accept payments from your partner's paychecks.
- You may have other paperwork to file, including possession orders about visitation.
- Your final divorce decree will include information about your child support arrangements.
Step 5: Attend a hearing
Texas requires couples to attend a hearing with a judge in divorce cases that involve children. Bring your final documents to the court. A judge will review them, and if your plans are solid, they'll be approved and signed by the judge at the end of the hearing.
Step 6: Finalize your divorce
Take your signed documents to the courthouse clerk and file them. This is the last step to complete your divorce process. This step is needed for child support payments to begin.
Steps to take if you can't collaborate (contested divorce)
If you and your ex can’t agree on certain terms of your divorce, your divorce is not uncontested. Instead, it is a contested divorce.
You’ll follow many of the steps above to file for child support, but if your spouse won’t sign papers and agree on a path forward, a judge may have to intervene.
If your divorce is contested, here are the steps to take to file for child support payments in Texas:
Step 1: Contact the attorney general’s office
If you apply for public assistance, the state of Texas may file for child support for you. You can reach out to the attorney general’s office to begin a child support petition.
Step 2: Establish paternity
Paternity must be established before child support is granted if you are seeking support from a father. There are various avenues by which paternity can be established, such as by assumption, voluntary acknowledgment, or court order.
Step 3: Complete the forms
If a child support request is part of your divorce, you’ll submit a form with your divorce packet. You can find the form here.
In addition, you’ll need to submit information on a Suit Affecting the Family Relationship and an Income Withholding Order. If the other parent does not live in Texas, you’ll need to also submit an Out-of-State Party Affidavit. Some forms might require a notary signature.
Step 4: File the forms
Make copies for your records and your ex beforehand. Expect to pay a filing fee of a couple hundred dollars when you file.
Step 5: Serve your ex
You can hire a process server to serve your ex with the papers. If you are unable to locate your ex, you can serve them via publication by placing a notice in the newspaper in the county where you filed.
What else is needed?
If you follow these steps and complete the process, you may begin receiving payments shortly. Depending on the schedule of payments, you may receive them on a weekly or monthly schedule, or you may receive a lump sum.
It’s up to the judge to decide when you start receiving payments. In some cases, they may order retroactive payments so you are paid from the point that you separated from your ex.
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ReferencesI Need a Divorce. We Have Children Under 18. (January 2023). TexasLawHelp.org.
How Child Support Works. Attorney General of Texas.