Frequently Asked Questions
If you talked in front of a judge or met with someone at an OAG child support office to discuss child support and other issues, you probably have a court order.
If you got divorced and hired an attorney to help you, then you probably have a court order. Call the district clerk’s office in the county where the child lived at the time when you went to court or where you were divorced. Be prepared to give your full name and the other party’s full name. The clerk will ask for the cause number or case number and for both Social Security numbers, if you know them. Search for Texas district clerks by the name of the county.
If you receive child support, you are the custodial parent.
If you pay child support, you are the noncustodial parent.
If you do not know if you are the custodial or noncustodial parent, read more about conservatorship
Call the Access and Visitation Hotline toll free from 1-7 p.m., Monday through Friday, at 1 (866) 292-4636. Attorneys can help you determine if you are the custodial or noncustodial parent. Hint: Have your court order in front of you to read to the attorney.
View the FAQs for Incarcerated Parents.
Unless there is a court order restricting your time with your child, the answer is yes. Child support and visitation rights are separate issues in the eyes of the court. Both parents must obey the child support portion of the order and the possession portion of the order.
If your court order has a possession order, the custodial parent must make your child available to you for parenting time. The custodial parent has to follow the possession (parenting time) order, even if you cannot pay child support.
If the custodial parent refuses to let you see your child because you are not paying child support, you can file a motion to enforce the access and possession portion of your order. There are potential legal consequences to moms and dads who do not obey the court orders.
Noncustodial parents can apply for legal help enforcing an existing possession order if they meet certain eligibility requirements. To find out more about enforcing a visitation order, go to Enforcement of Visitation.
For an online application:
1 (800)-252-8014 and request an application.
Links to Attorney Resources:
Read more about paternity.
If you are planning to leave a relationship, be aware that physical violence often escalates during periods of separation and around the time that someone files for divorce or child support. This can be true even if the relationship was not previously physically violent.
If you are worried about your safety, take these steps to protect yourself:
- Create a safety plan before you leave or file for divorce. A safety plan is a personalized, practical plan that includes ways to stay safe. You can learn more about safety planning here: The National Domestic Violence Hotline – Path to Safety.
- Think through the steps you need to take before you leave the relationship. A good list can be found here: The National Domestic Violence Hotline – Leaving a Relationship.
- Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline and talk to someone who can help you think through your options and talk about your concerns. The hotline number is 1 (800)-799-SAFE (7233). For the hearing impaired: 1 (800)-787-3224 (TTY).
Talk to family and friends about what is going on so that they can be prepared to help you and your family if the need arises. You can get child support safely.
The court order does not change until the judge changes it. The Attorney General’s Office (OAG) may file a Motion to Redirect Child Support if a custodial parent (CP):
• Voluntarily relinquishes the primary care and possession of the child for at least six months
• Is incarcerated or has been sentenced to be incarcerated for at least 90 days,
• Relinquishes the primary care and possession of the child to:
o the Texas Juvenile Justice Department;
o to foster care; or
o in a proceeding under the Juvenile Justice Code.
The order to redirect does not give the person with possession of the child all of the rights and powers of a sole managing conservator. Instead, the CP retains all of the rights and powers concerning the health, education, and welfare of the child, including the right to determine the primary residence of the child, but the CP does not have the right to receive payments or disburse money for the benefit of the child.
A redirection of support based upon a CP’s incarceration must be requested so the CP can receive current child support again. The CP may file an affidavit with the court, stating each of the following:
• the CP has been released from incarceration
• no modification of the conservatorship of the child occurred during the incarceration
• the CP now has physical possession of the child [TFC §156.409(a-3)]
Note: In cases where court ordered child support was changed in some other way, such as through a change of status or a modification of conservatorship, the former CP may not receive current support until the order is modified to name the CP as the obligee.
Contact your local law library, or call the Access and Visitation Hotline at 1 (866) 292-4636 to find out how to ask the court to give you additional rights if there is no case with the OAG, and the child has been in your care for more than six months.
A court order that reflects your agreements says where the child is supposed to be, in case conflicts arise. Read more about Modification of Visitation.
The court order does not change until the judge changes it. If the case is with the Attorney General’s Office, contact the local child support office about a change in status. A change of status is a change in the child’s primary residence from one parent’s home to another parent or caregiver’s home. A change of status request will address current child support, medical support, and arrears (if any) that are relevant for your case. You can also file a motion to modify with the district or other appropriate court. If the parties agree, the child support office can assist with the change. The obligation to pay child support continues until the judge signs the request. If there is no agreement, the OAG cannot assist. The parties must go before a district court in the county that issued the original (or latest) court order.
Before taking action, think about whether the child is likely to move again, or if is this a permanent or extended (several years) change. Children benefit when things are stable, and friends, home and school do not change. The court is unlikely to make repeated changes because the court does not consider frequent changes to be in the child’s best interest. The noncustodial parent is still under a court order to pay the child support until there is a new court order signed by a judge. In other words, if you are currently paying child support, don’t stop. The custodial parent might take the child back, and you don’t want to get into trouble for not paying child support.
The OAG may be able to assist you in filing a Notice of Change of Status. You could also hire a private attorney to help you modify custody (conservatorship). Find an attorney.