Vonda Bailey | Keys to Success in Child Support Cases in Texas

On this episode of the Texas Family Law Insiders podcast, I talk to Vonda Bailey, the managing partner of the Law Office of Vonda Bailey, PLLC. Vonda successfully sat for the Texas Bar Exam prior to receiving her law degree from Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law.

In the courtroom, Vonda is a force to be reckoned with, often referred to as a “pit bull in a skirt.” She is running for Judge in the 255th Family District Court – Dallas County.

Today Vonda sits down to offer us some of her insider knowledge on all things child support, including:

  • The 7 keys to proving a child support enforcement case
  • 5 types of evidence to present in court
  • The number 1 way to successfully defend a child support claim 
  • And more

Mentioned in this episode:


Vonda Bailey: Instead of saying as child support, I say in lieu of, so then when they’re reading it, they’re like, well, okay, so I’m really not paying child support. I’m paying for the things that I normally pay for when in essence, it is still child support, right?

Voiceover: You’re listening to the Texas Family Law Insiders podcast, your source for the latest news and trends in family law in the state of Texas. Now, here’s your host attorney Holly Draper.

Holly Draper: Today we’re excited to welcome Vonda Bailey as our guest on the Texas Family Law Insiders podcast. Vonda is the managing partner of the Law Office of Vonda Bailey. Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Vonda earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Texas at Arlington, and she earned her JD from Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law. Vonda is one of the few lawyers to successfully sit for the Texas Bar Exam before completing law school. She’s a fierce advocate in the courtroom with the slogans no more drama with Vonda and pit bull in a skirt used to describe her. Outside of the office fun enjoys playing golf, traveling and attending local networking events. She’s also running for district judge in Dallas County of the 255th District Court. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Vonda: Thank you for having me, Holly. I’m excited to be here.

Holly: So why don’t you start by just telling us a bit about your background?

Vonda: Well, as you stated, I was born and raised here in Dallas specifically in Oak Cliff. I attended Carter High School. I attended the University of Texas at Arlington shortly thereafter. And as you mentioned, I went to law school in Houston. I am married my husband is Christopher Shaw. He is the police chief at the UNT Dallas campus as well as the law school campus in downtown Dallas. And we have two children. Austin, who is 12 and Arielle, who will be two next month.

Prior to going to law school, I was a probation officer in the Dallas County courts, adult felony probation. That was an awesome experience. I believe it really, you know, made the gate open for wanting to go to law school and wanting to pursue my law degree. It’s funny because I ended up in family law, it kind of just found me. But prior to that, I just knew I was going to be the female version of Johnnie Cochran. I wanted to practice criminal law, because that’s all I was exposed to. And here I am doing nothing but families. So it’s been fun.

Holly: I kind of have a little bit of a similar story just in that I didn’t go to law school intending to do Family Law. But it found me too. And here we are. But I think probably both of us are glad that’s the case.

Vonda: Oh, absolutely.

Holly: So how would you describe your current practice?

Vonda: Oh, Family Law 100%. I do mostly child support cases, though. You know, and I think there may have something to do with the YouTube show that I have about child support. But I do a lot of child support cases, about 80 to 85% of my cases, I represent men. And I found it that a lot of men prefer to have women representing them in the courtroom, and rankled from their after child support. I do some property related cases with you know, families that don’t involve any children. And some divorce cases. I very seldom do adoptions. I used to do them a lot more. I’m finding that with the adoption cases, they’re doing a lot of the what do you call it the agency type. So sometimes they already have attorneys that are associated with the agency, which is perfectly fine. But I would love to do more adoptions. They are the highlight of family law, in my opinion.

Holly: Oh, yes, we would all love to do more adoptions. So what made you kind of focus your niche on child support?

Vonda: That’s a great question. You know, people kept reaching out to me on Facebook, and they’re like, I have a question about child support. I have a question about child support. And so when I first started practicing law, Chapter 154 of the Texas family code, which is the child support code is the one that I read first. Tt was, for me, it was the one that I connected with instantly, it made the most sense logically. And so I just made sure I spent a lot of time educating myself on that.

So the more people saw me in child support court, especially in Tarrant County, I had a huge caseload of child support cases out there, the judges started appointing me on their child support cases involving endorsements and everything like that. And then like you’re really good at these, you know, you you definitely can make people pay some money and I’m just a people person. So I found that in doing child support, as well as telling them the law, and giving them like moral situations and a little bit more compassionate and understanding to their situations, I find some of those cases to be a little bit less difficult than, you know, dealing with some of the more complicated issues involved in divorce, and child custody.

Holly: So you mentioned that you have a YouTube channel, do you want to share what that is for our listeners?

Vonda: Sure. I played the role of Judge Vonda B. I am Judge Vonda B on my show. My husband, Chris is actually my Bailiff. We that was kind of all those Facebook messages and other social media messages gave birth to support core people was asking, you know, all these questions. I’m like, how can I reach people on a massive, you know, scale? So one Saturday, I was watching couples court. And I just got to thinking I said, there’s couple couples court, divorce court, paternity court. Why isn’t anybody talking about child support? It is the most controversial area of law, in my opinion. And so I spoke to my production team, and they were like, hey, this is a good idea. Let’s do it. And there you go. Support Court with Judge Vonda B.

Holly: So why do you think child support is so controversial?

Vonda: Number of reasons. The first reason I think it is is because I don’t really think people have a general understanding of what child support entails in terms of how, you know, calculations are done. Net resources, a child being on Medicaid versus having private insurance, a child being disabled, you know, attending school, some of those factors, you know, I don’t really think that people fully understanding, that’s one reason, but I also think one of the more common reasons, unfortunately, is because of how a person is placed on child support.

You know, in some of the cases, I’ve seen it, it’s, you know, out of one person getting married, you know, being placed on child support out of spite, you say no, to me, if I’m asking you to do something for the child, I just run and put you on child support. You get into a new relationship. You know, all of these petty reasons, to put someone on child support, I just think it leaves a sour taste. So that coupled with being, you know, not being as knowledgeable about that area of the law, it just makes it super controversial.

Holly: So today, we are going to talk about child support. And let’s start with initial sapcrs for divorce proceedings where child support is an issue for the first time. So when you have a client who is coming to you in that situation, what type of information do you request from that client right out of the gate that you feel is most useful in child support cases?

Vonda: So, first thing I asked for, obviously, are there financials? What types of income did you have? Are you being paid, you know, as a subcontractor? Are you getting 1099, you have w2s, your tax returns. I like to see all of those up front. And then I also ask my clients, as soon as they hired me to give me a financial statement. So I can have the financial breakdown, rather of what their bills are a month, and I have them separated from their personal expenses, and what they actually expend for the child.

I like to do that, because from the beginning with any with any case, really, you want to build a theory of what it is that you’re going to be presenting. So with child support, the theory is a little different, because you have all those factors, under what is it 154.123 that allows courts to deviate from child support, guideline child support. So I like to spend a lot of time really looking at those types of materials first, so I can see what type of theme I’m going to build for my client.

Holly: One of the other things I like to ask is, what is the other side going to say about these things? Are they going to claim you’re getting money under the table? Are they going to claim you are working another job? Because you certainly don’t want to show up at the courthouse and learn that for the first time.

Vonda: Absolutely.

Holly: So with the new initial disclosures that we now have, it should be easier than ever for attorneys to calculate appropriate child support for cases. Are you finding that to be the case?

Vonda: I am. You know, with some of us, I’ve found to a lot of us just didn’t know how to calculate child support even the first time before everything changed. So, you know, for me, I never found that part of it difficult because before I even really knew how to calculate it. I would send everything to the Attorney General and let them kind of explain it to me and walk me through it. And that’s how I was able to get better at it. So, yeah, I find the new disclosures to be well, in terms of what you have to produce up front, I find it to be a lot easier.

Holly: So what are some of the roadblocks that you see in initial child support cases?

Vonda: Well, obviously, your you know, your clients that hide their resources, that aren’t very forthcoming about the things that they are doing to make money. Um, social media postings, obviously hurt a lot in child support cases. You know, for the life of me, I don’t understand why people feel like they have to do that. And if they do, don’t appreciate the consequence of, you know, it being shown as a piece of evidence in court and actually being held against you. So social media, I can say is like one of the most difficult ones, parents not being forthcoming about their income, as I stated.

Something else is tax returns that are not legitimate. Like, I’m getting a lot of people that are producing tax returns, they’re manipulated, I’ll just say that. And I don’t really know how to overcome that, or what to necessarily do about that. But you know, I’m very clear to my clients, I’m not putting anything in front of a judge that is false, or has been altered or anything like that, because I’m still an officer of the court. So, you know, I don’t want to get entangled into anything like that based on my client not being truthful.

Holly: So what are some things you look for that tip you off, that something might have been less than truthful, or that tax returns may have been modified or something like that?

Vonda: Well, the biggest thing is the year to date, when a lot of these people produce their tax returns. And they you know, manipulating whoever is manipulating it is not doing it according to the year to date. That always is the tell tail, because you know, how it calculates gross net, and then year to date is slightly off. So that’s what makes me look at everything else. And then once I get in and start doing the calculations myself, I’m like, this doesn’t even make sense. Because all of these deductions are not even adding up to what it says your niche should be.

So that’s when you know, I’m able to pull the truth. Pull the truth out of them like, yeah, well, I don’t want him or her to know what it is I’m exactly making. And you know, I’m just like, that really doesn’t benefit you. Because if you’re a person that is a W2 employee, the state has the resources to find out how much it is that you’re truly making. So going through all of these extreme steps to keep someone the other parent in particular, from knowing your income, you’re just wasting your time.

Holly: Yeah, and as a general rule, I think it’s really easy to calculate child support, especially if the AG is involved when we have a W2 employee. But sometimes we have 1099, or we have self employed people who, in my experience, do a tend to do a pretty good job of trying to let the IRS think they’re making less money than they actually are, where they’re experiencing everything. They’re doing all that kind of thing. So how do you deal with that?

Vonda: Well, the first thing I do is I love to look at bank statements for self employed people. I know when I’m proving up, child support cases won’t work. You know, I’m defending the person or especially when I am defending against that claim of you know, my child support should be based on minimum wage or something less, because I don’t make this much money. It’s my business you. You can’t take money from my business. So I always ask to see, I always do discovery and ask for the business account statement, as well as the personal account statement.

So then when I’m looking at the business account statement, I’m able to see because a lot of business owners, one thing they don’t do is put themselves on payroll. So a lot of them do bank transfers. Well, when you know you do a bank transfer, you can see it tells you the last four digits that this account went to, especially if it’s an account that is like a savings account or something attached. So then when I see that I say okay, I need to see this statement. So when I see that statement, and I see is nothing but money coming in. I do a calculation based on what they’re giving themselves monthly on an average. And then I ask the court to deviate and take that into consideration in calculating what the child support amount should be.

Holly: So a lot of times, it’s Sounds like you do a lot of IV-D cases. And often I know I’ll get highered just to show up for that hearing. So when that’s the case, and you’re showing up for a hearing, it’s the first time you’ve seen the other side, you don’t have any information or information in advance. How do you handle it when you suspect you know, there’s a 1099 there’s a self employed person and we need to dig on the finances.

Vonda: So yeah, I ask for reset. The Attorney General’s are really good with their resets. You know, typically when you’re recording, you ask for reset, you may get about two or three weeks, just depending on the court’s docket. But in OAG cases, because their dockets are so heavy, typically you’re going to get like a month or so out. So that at least gives me time to investigate and see what I need to do and see if that case is even worth me staying on. Because if it’s something where I believe my client is not going to, you know, be able to work with me and be forthcoming about something then that attorney client relationship just isn’t going to work.

Holly: So shifting gears a little bit right now, guideline, child support has a cap of the first $9200 in net resources. But the code theoretically allows for above guideline child support. In practice, how often do you see courts ordering above guideline support?

Vonda: Very often with above guideline, in my personal experience, it’s been very case by case specific. The cases where I have gotten above guidelines, I’ve represented the mother of the child, the child or children, you know, they have children with someone who plays in the NFL, or someone who plays in the NBA. I had a boxer before. Children that you know, people that don’t have necessarily high net worths like that.

Maybe they’re making three $400,000 a year, I’ll say. And these children are attending private school, they have private chefs, they go to you know, competitive swim, competitive cheer, those types of things. I look at those expenses. And, you know, when judges see that, you put that in front of them. That’s typically when I have seen the above guidelines support. But typically, that’s not an everyday situation that you will see in court, in my opinion.

Holly: Yeah, it’s oftentimes I’m having the discussion with clients about the cap, and above guideline support, I, you know, throw out you don’t see professional athletes paying 20 $100 for child support. But at the same time, the code doesn’t say, if somebody makes way above the cap, then we’re gonna go above guideline child support. But I guess it is what it is and I guess kids have kids have rich parents have greater needs than kids that don’t have rich parents.

Vonda: If you think about it, in theory, that’s what it sounds like.

Holly: Exactly. Okay. So I mean, do you see a lot of agreements outside of court for above guideline child support?

Vonda: Never really at all. Hardly ever, you know, what I found with a lot of these above the guideline cases, because I literally just closed one in Tarrant County, they are the most difficult. A lot of times the parent that makes that type of money to agree to anything, because they’re like, yeah, I pay for this, this, this and this. And I’m like, well, if we sit down and do a summation of everything that you pay, you know, your child support should probably be equivalent to that, right? Because you’re not going to stop doing those things. Because you want your children to participate in these extracurriculars. You want them to be able to have this certain diet, you know, with a chef or whatever the case may be, so why not? But if almost like you have to pull them in court and let them see what’s going to happen, then usually after they hear it from the judge it’s like, okay, I’ll agree to that. It’s weird.

Holly: Do you see a lot of agreements? Or do you make a lot of proposals that kind of re characterize the way it’s worded? So because you kind of mentioned you’re paying for the private school, or you’re paying for the private chef, I find, usually the paying parents finds it easier to take or agree to if we put in the order as child support, you’re going to pay for the private chef, not that I’ve ever put that in order, but you know, as child support, you’re going to pay private school tuition for this child. Do you see that a lot?

Vonda: Absolutely. And you know what, when I do my proposals on cases like that, instead of saying. It’s a play on words. Instead of saying as child support, I say In lieu of, so they when they’re reading it, they’re like, well, okay, so I’m really not paying child support. I’m paying for the things that I normally pay for when in essence, it is still child support. Right? But for you, you’re absolutely right. It’s that word, child support, there just has such a stigma attached to it, like, the state is telling me what to do. They’re not let me do with my money the way that I want to do. I refuse to let the sate have that much say so over me.

Holly: Well, do you ever run it or have concerns if you’re saying in lieu of child support about enforceability? Because I have always thought we’re gonna call it child support specifically, even when it’s paying for something else. So that it’s enforceable in the same way child support is enforceable?

Vonda: Yeah, we do the order when I do my orders, I word it for enforceability purposes. But the proposal itself, when I’m like, you know, on a letterhead or something, send it over a proposal for my client to accept before I send it over, I’ll say in lieu of child support, but I made sure that I explained to them in the order itself, for enforceability purposes, this is how it’s going to be stated. You know, it has all the legalese and everything like that. I feel like it’s easier for them to digest it that way. Versus you know, as child support, because in their mind, I’m still paying child support. So right, you know, in an effort to get them there is like, okay, you’re paying for this for your children, but in the order it’s going to be outlined like this.

Holly: One of the I rarely hear people talking about or complaining about the state deciding that. I normally hear people complaining about, you know, if it’s dad who’s paying that, they that they have to pay mom, and they feel like mom’s gonna use this to take a vacation or buy a fancy house, and they don’t really connect that they don’t like that they can’t account for that money. So when we re characterize it a little bit as okay, you’re paying for the private school, they feel a lot better about that, because they’re not paying mom or vice versa, whatever the case may be.

Vonda: So true. I cannot agree with you even more. And it’s interesting that you mentioned that because that accounting thing, I literally broke it down to someone the other day because they asked me about it. I said, Now think about what you’re asking for somebody has to monitor that. The Attorney General’s if you see how overworked they are, do you see another, you know, department being created within that department to be paid and underworked or overworked possibly, too? You’re in the same situation. So all of your complaints that you have about child support now? Not you know being as thorough as you want to child support taking too long? Just imagine how long it would take for you to get an accounting day? How would that even happen?

Holly: Oh, yeah, that would be a nightmare logistically. So one of the let’s shift gears a little bit and talk about modifying child support. Under what circumstances do you recommend modifying?

Vonda: Well, definitely if a well, it depends on this one. I always put an asterisk by this one. When if you give birth to more children, the reason I put an asterisk by that one, because even if you give birth to another child, yes, you’re, you know, the percentage change in terms of how many children that they have. But if you got a raise and made more money, there’s a likelihood it may not move, right. So I caution people when it comes to children, but definitely if you are laid off from your job and you start receiving unemployment or anything like that, I will recommend that especially if your unemployment is longer than like three to six months, potentially, if it’s going to be something that’s likely a year or maybe longer, I will recommend getting a modification.

If there’s going to be a relocation of some sort or relocation, especially one that requires one parent to be out of the state completely or even in another country. Those are some things to think about in terms of a modification. If your visitation schedule changes, if you all were under a standard visitation schedule, one parent was paying child support. And now you all have on your own started splitting the time equally like a two to three schedule. I mean, two, two, five, five or a week on week off, then yeah, you definitely should consider a modification in those circumstances.

Holly: And also if the parties by agreement have flipped custody, where

Vonda: Oh, absolutely.

Holly: Yeah. Because then, you know, probably the other person needs to be paying, but that doesn’t always happen.

Vonda: And if he’s not an agreement. If there’s been a voluntary relinquishment, I’m like, yeah, you might need to consider a modification. The only cases, like I said, that I mainly put an asterisk by are those where people are trying to modify because they have another child, or those when their children turn 12. And they become of age, I always caution people, because a lot of people assume that, okay, my child is 12, they mean, they can say they want to come live with me. And I’m like, well, there’s actually a two prong rule. It has to be that they’re twelve, and it is in their best interest. So even if they are of age, if the court doesn’t believe that it’s in their best interest, nine times out of 10 is not going to change, which means child support is going to remain the same.

Holly: So we touched just a little bit on possession and its connection to child support calculations. Obviously, we know the family code has one child support calculation, and it applies in a standard possession or expanded standard situation. But we see other schedules all the time, such as the 50-50 schedules you mentioned, and I know there’s, you know, firefighters schedules out there. And there’s all kinds of schedules that people have, for one reason or another. How you typically calculate child support, when it’s a 50-50 type case.

Vonda: For me, I try it with the first thing I try to do is encourage my clients to consider an offset of child support, and I break it down and I actually show them how to work, you know, using hypotheticals not necessarily with their income. Just depending on, you know, the level of what do you call it, anxiety my client is under. For some people use an actual numbers for their situation, may not be the best at that time. So I like to use hypothetical numbers and tell them, okay, this is yours, this is theirs, they subtract it, whichever one typically makes more is the one who pays the difference in child support. So I always encourage, an offset, first. If the outfit of avenue is something my client is not in agreement with, or the other side is not in agreement with, then obviously, I have to plead for it.

And I’m just show the court why child support shouldn’t be at this amount. There are some times where, you know, people would like to agree to no child support in those situations. But specifically, in Dallas County, there are not a lot of courts that accept those agreements, you know, they believe that someone should be paying something in child support. So I’d do my best to try to encourage people with split schedules to work out some sort of an agreement, even if, like we’ve talked about it not being explicitly, you know, stated as child support per se, right. But if you guys are going to split tuition, or even if it’s daycare, the week the child is with you, you pay for daycare. The week that the child is with the other parents, they’ll pay for daycare. You know, different variations like that.

Holly: So when you are seeing judges in Dallas County that have an issue with no child support in a 50-50, do you find that have you know having a splitting of expenses like that satisfies them? Or do they want one parent paying the other?

Vonda: Usually, from my experience, it’s been one parent paying the other. And I asked one of the judges about that, you know, I was like, hey, if this is their agreement, then why can’t you know they agree to it? And the rationale behind it made a lot of sense. For one, when something goes wrong, then they’ll be back in the courtroom saying, hey, I need to put this person on child support, right? Well, if it’s a modification, you know, you have to show them material and substantial change.

And a lot of parents don’t necessarily need that, at that time, just because they want a child support all of a sudden. So the rationale is that if we do with a client, and the parties agree, you know, in their within our own regard, hey, I’ll just give you this money back. I’ll give you the little child support card that I use, I give it back to you, then you can do it like that. But in terms of the court system, I just think from what I got out of it, the courts just didn’t want an entire backlog of you know, not entering child support at that time. And then people just run into the courtroom to get child support for any reason.

Holly: So I’m sure Dallas is not the only place in Texas where people see this issue. So when that happens, do you cut try to take a break and say we’re going to mediation? Because if you have a mediated settlement agreement for no child support does the judge have any authority to not sign your final order?

Vonda: That’s true. I do encourage mediation and you know, honestly, in a lot of 50-50 situations, it’s my opinion. If you can come up with that, because you practice Family Law, Holly, I mean, for a lot of times people are so separated, right. But if you can come to an agreement with that, it’s like mediation may be best, because it may just need to be someone that’s a third party unattached to the case, whatever kind of help you work through whatever the reason is, that’s not getting you there. So I definitely do encourage mediated settlement agreements, in those types of situations.

Or, because I actually was doing a prove up year a few years ago in Dallas, and we were proving up no child support. And the judge said, no, you need to go in that room, have a conversation and come up with some amount. So one of the parties was pro se and I was representing the other one, I was like, hey, if you all agree to $100, I think that would work. I just don’t think this judge is going to go for zero. And they ended up agreeing to $100. And to my understanding, the parent that was paying, it was giving it back to the other parent, because they didn’t have any intentions, on you know, making money exchange hands.

Holly: So that it’s very frustrating to me that parties would have to go to those links when they’ve reached an agreement not to have child support for whatever those reasons are. And really, their agreement is the same and it’s not changing, they are just having to go through these extra hoops because the judge wants them to.

Vonda: Right. And it’s unfortunate, because a lot of times, the reason some people come up with these agreements is because they don’t really want to expend the extra money on mediation and things like that. So it benefits them to, you know, kind of work it out amongst themselves. Not only that, I always find too the less court involvement, you can have in the case, the better for the parties, essentially, because if there is an order that the two of you have come up with, you’re more inclined to follow it versus a judge telling you something that you don’t agree with, you’re not really going to follow that.

Holly: Another thing I think is frustrating about any judge who would not approve an agreement that the parties had made related to child support is, it makes it very luck of the draw as to whether or not you can have that agreement or not. So as we all know, you can’t decide which court your case lands in, it gets filed, and it lands where it lands, there’s nothing you can do about it. And if you’re lucky, your agreement can happen. If you’re not, it can’t and somebody is going to pay child support. Now, whether or not that’s lucky, or unlucky, I guess is up for debate. But which side of it you’re on, I suppose. But I really find it frustrating when there are pieces of family law that are not spelled out in the code. And then judges have hard and fast rules on something relatively arbitrary, that make it luck as to whether or not that’s going to apply to you.

Vonda: Yeah, I share the same frustration. And that’s why I try my best to in situations like that I have to show a little bit more patience than usual. And sometimes, you know, my client and I have to take a break and sleep on it and reconvene the next day. You know, it, it puts more work on us as the attorney, you know, because we already have these people who not in all cases don’t like each other, but we do have some that really cannot get along. So to make that, you know, put that roadblock in front of them that makes our jobs a lot more difficult.

Holly: So we always still have the issue of enforcement to get to here. It’s kind of the last last piece of the child support puzzle here. And at what point do you typically advise clients to in file an enforcement related to child support.

Vonda: Holly Honestly, it just really depends on the case. I can’t say if someone has consulted with me, and they’re like, this person owes me $2,000 I want to file an enforcement on them. I didn’t necessarily say that I’ve had a lot of cases like that. And I just say hey, we’ll go file an enforcement. Usually when people come and see me at the enforcement level it’s pretty egregious. You know, 15, $20,000, this person has gotten remarried. And they’re posting on social media that they took this, you know, an elaborate trip on their honeymoon, they spent all this money on a wedding.

You know, those types of things. That’s pretty egregious and you’re doing it where the other person can see exactly what you’re doing. Almost like I’m still gonna do it and you just need to deal with it. So in situations like that, I I will say, I do encourage people at that point to file an enforcement. Because I know the ramifications of enforcements, you know, being quasi criminal and the person facing jail time, depending on the circumstances where the amount may be a little less, but the person is paying, they’re just not paying the full amount, you know, I try to encourage them to work with them a little bit more. Have a conversation. I think a lot of times, some of these situations can be worked out with communication, because when some of the cases that I’ve dealt with once they get in court, it’s like, all he has to do or all she had to do was pick up the phone and ask me.

I lost my job. I’ve been paying, I’ve only been paying $25. But that’s all I had on me, I at least I wanted to pay something. So I think with the less egregious cases, I encourage a communication conversation first, maybe, you know, let’s go the list of what do you call a difficult way that’s in the letter, you know, just remind them what their child support obligation is. All though they know it, you know, try to do the lesser of the most, you know, harsh of methods to get someone to pay child support.

Holly: So when you do file an enforcement, what are the key elements for proving your case in an enforcement proceeding?

Vonda: Okay, first of all, let me say again, I love enforcement. I love bringing them and defending them, I think that is the clearest part of the law in terms of technicalities. The first thing I do I make, like I guess you can say, a cheat sheet, that reminds me, you know, to hit all of these points. So the first thing I want to do is, obviously, identify the order that I’m seeking to enforce. I want to then identify the respondent, I do that right out the gate, because that’s the easiest way to get your case kicked. Is identify the respondent, make sure that they were on notice of the order, like actually do those things to prove it up. And then just go individually to each one of the allegations.

And I know I’ve seen cases where the attorney is like is like 60 allegations, and they’re like, we don’t disagree with any of them. Well, for purposes of proving it up, you literally have to fake out each and every last one of those allegations, child support, specifically, you have to identify the manner in which they were supposed to pay, which I think a lot of attorneys forget about that. Like what does the order say? Do they pay? Do they pay you directly through the state disbursement unit? Do they pay, you know, directly to the person, whatever the order says this is supposed to be the manner, identify how much they their obligation was, how much they paid, and the date that they were supposed to make that obligation and always present an order to the court.

At the time that you’re proving up your case, you want to give the court a proposed order. And one thing that I’ve seen constantly that attorneys fail to do is prove up their attorneys fees. That is the I mean, in my opinion, it’s the easiest way to get attorneys fees in family court cases. Because if you’re able to prove up a case, and show that they violated the order by not paying child support, attorneys fees are statutory. It’s up to you at that point to make sure that you get your billing statement, you know, your contract into evidence, you testify to the necessity and the reasonableness of your fees. So you can make sure that you can get those now, do all judges give you all the fees that you’re asking for all the time? No, but still, you want to make sure that you call yourself as a witness and prove that up.

Holly: Right. That’s the one time where the code specifically says you get your fees if you win. So that would be a really a cardinal sin in my mind for an attorney not to properly prove up their attorneys fees, and then their client loses out on that.

Vonda: Yes.

Holly: What are the key pieces of evidence you present in court when you’re prosecuting an enforcement case?

Vonda: For child support in particular, I like well, obviously the payment record from the Attorney General is a lot of good evidence, social media evidence is good. Something else I always ask if they are aware of this person being incapable of paying child support because I believe that is one of the defenses, you know, that they can use. They’re not capable of making. You know, that type of money. I also like to put on evidence to show that they’re they have family members or whomever that they can borrow the money from different things like that. Oh, and their personal expenses.

You know, if my if my client is aware of the personal expenses, like, let’s say they live in a home or an apartment, they know what the rent is they know what the mortgage is. They know they have three other kids and the spouse staying there that goes to this particular school that requires tuition, you know, how are those type of things paid and everything like that. And, you know, actually this, it gets really interesting when you talk about going, you know, that route with someone’s expenses, because I love when the responses were my spouse pays for that. My spouse pays for that. So that leaves you with extra money to pay child support. So yeah, those are just some of the things that some most of it, though, I will say, comes from social media.

Holly: Oh, yes. There’s nothing better in court, then when somebody says something stupid on social media?

Vonda: Oh, yeah, absolutely.

Holly: So on the other side, when defending a child support enforcement case, what are the key defenses you’re looking for, to see if your client has?

Vonda: First thing, like I said, because enforcements are so technical, the first thing I do is look at the four corners of it enforcement, and try to see how I can knock it out. So the, the enforcement portion of the code is very specific, you have to track the language of the code. If you fail to track any of the language of the code, that’s a fatal error, I’m going to get it kicked. If your allegations are not specific enough to prove, you know, what you’re trying to say to someone did in court, I can try to get a kicked out. The first thing I tried to do is, I studied their motion for enforcement itself to see how I can get it out just right off the bat, right?

Well, if I can’t get it kicked out at the beginning stages, then it of course, in whoa, back, I’ll back up. I also try to look for defenses for my client, you know, the defenses are a little different. For position and access, I believe in position and access, you have a couple of more defenses than you would in child support. But in child support court, if you’re extremely, you know, indigent, you absolutely can’t afford to have anyone you have access to you don’t have the resources to get it from them. They don’t have the report resources, are you just completely incapable of doing it. Like you’re disabled, whatever the case may be. I look at those to do my verified defenses.

And even after that, if we end up making it to court, and we have the hearing, I’m listening to see where I can get kicked out on a motion for directed verdict. You know, that they fail to identify the respondent? Did they fail to identify, you know, the date and time? Or you know, some of those key things that you actually have to prove up in your hearing, I’m looking for those to get a kicked out on a directed verdict. And if my directed verdict isn’t granted, I’m still listening. And you know, at the end, like, hey, Judge, I don’t think they prove this case. So I try to attack a motion for enforcement any and every way that I can.

Holly: So you mentioned trying to kill them right at the beginning. So before the directed verdict stage, when would you try and get it kicked?

Vonda: When you get to court. So when you get to court, and the first question is asked and answered, because you want jeopardy to attach. After they’ve answered the question, then jeopardy attaches, right? So you want to make sure that you do it, then, because if you do it beforehand, especially if you follow a special exceptions or something, you’re letting the person know that something is wrong with it. And ultimately, do you really want to do that you kind of want to get it kicked.

Because I mean, I remember in advanced when had in virtually last year, one of the presenters, they have family and a special exceptions on an enforcement is borderline malpractice. And if you think about it, it sort of is. You know, why would you want to let the other side know that their pleading is defective. That’s I don’t think you should use I used to, but once I became you know, more familiar with the enforcement it fell and how technical it was. I got away from the special exceptions, but you definitely want to do it after the first question is asked and answered. Because if you’re able to do it there that stops everything.

Holly: Yes, agreed. 100%. The last thing that you want is the other side to have the opportunity to go amend it and fix what they did wrong, especially when your client is looking at jail time or paying attorneys fees, all of those things. So definitely the case has to have started, there has to have been a question and answer in order before you pull the trigger on killing their case.

Vonda: Oh, yeah.

Holly: So we’re just about out of time. But there’s one question I like to ask all my guests on the podcast, which is, if you could give one piece of advice to young Family Lawyers, what would it be?

Vonda: Stay encouraged. You know, um, I think too often, the law is filled, you’re dealing with a bunch of lawyers, and most of us have type A personalities, right? It can be pretty intimidating, especially when you’re fresh out the gate. And some of the other attorneys are a bit more seasoned, they’ve been doing it a little bit longer. It’s easy to get discouraged in those situations. But I would say stay encouraged, you know, what you know. Study your craft, whatever it is that you want to specifically focus on any area, you don’t have to be knowledgeable in every single piece of the law, right? In terms of related to family law, but if you just want to have general understanding of majority of them, but there’s one area you want to hone in on then you do that. But whatever it is that you do you stay encouraged no matter what.

Holly: I think that’s great advice. So where can our listeners go if they want to learn more about you?

Vonda: If you want to learn more about me, I’m, I’m literally like a social butterfly. My social media is not private at all. You can follow me on Facebook under Vonda Bailey Shaw. I’m on Instagram under no drama Vonda. Tik tok, pretty much Twitter. All of my social media is generally Vonda Bailey. You can find me you can reach out to me, like I said, I’m a social butterfly. I love to talk to people. I love doing podcasts. So Holly, thank you again for inviting me. And I just love educating people, especially about child support.

Holly: So I went to your website, and I have to say that your website is one of the most clever Family Law sites that I have ever seen. It’s not your typical site. So can you share that with our listeners?

Vonda: Thank you. Of course My website is www.nomoredramawithvonda.com.

Holly: I like it well done. So thank you so much for joining us today for our listeners, if you enjoyed the podcast please take a second leave us a review and subscribe so you can enjoy our future episodes.

Voiceover: That Texas Family Law Insiders podcast is sponsored by the Draper Law firm. We help people navigate divorce and child custody cases and handle family law appellate matters. For more information, visit our website at www.Draperfirm.com

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