Should you enforce child support through the Attorney General or with a private attorney?

If the other parent of your child is more than thirty days behind on child support, you can file an enforcement action against them.  Most people wait until there are at least a few thousand dollars in arrears before filing such a suit, but the law requires that the non-custodial parent be at least thirty days to file suit.

When seeking to enforce child support in Texas, you have two options:  enforcement through the Office of the Attorney General or enforcement with a private attorney.  There are advantages and disadvantages to both options.

The key advantage to enforcing through the Office of the Attorney General is that it is free.  The child support division’s sole purpose is to set and collect child support.  On the down side, it can take several months for the attorney general to take action on your case once you have put in the request.  Additionally, I have seen numerous cases where the attorney general has not been able to track down and serve the non-custodial parent.  If you can’t find or serve the parent, you can’t enforce child support.  You have to keep in mind that the attorney general handles thousands and thousands of cases.

There are several advantages to using a private attorney to enforce child support.  First, a private attorney has a much smaller caseload and can give your case more personalized attention.  Second, a private attorney can hire an investigator and a private process server to help track down and serve the non-custodial parent.  Finally, a private attorney can get your enforcement action heard much quicker, often in a matter of weeks.  The downside to hiring a private attorney is that you have to pay for it.  A court can and often will award attorney’s fees in an enforcement action, but actually recovering those fees can be difficult.  You will still need to come up with money up front to pay the attorney.

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