What Happens if the Custodial Parent Doesn't Show Up to Court for Child Support in Texas?

By Jimmy Verner - Updated June 16, 2017
family law

A court hearing for child support is like any other type of court hearing: You must introduce evidence to support your claims. If the custodial parent has evidence the court must hear to make a decision about support yet fails to appear and testify, the court may rule against her. But, if the custodial parent's testimony is not necessary, the hearing to determine child support can proceed without it.

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Child Support in Texas

Child support in Texas is based only upon the monthly net resources, or income, of the noncustodial parent. Texas is unusual among the states in setting child support this way. Most states consider the earnings of both parents when setting child support. Once the court determines the income of the noncustodial parent, the court applies a percentage to that figure, depending on the number of children, to set a guideline for child support. As of September 2013, net resources are capped at $8,550. If the noncustodial parent's income exceeds $8,550 per month, the court may award additional child support depending on the needs of the child.

Establishing Child Support

Child support is initially set when the parents divorce or upon the successful prosecution of a paternity suit. When the parents divorce, both are usually present in court and often testify about their income and the needs of the child. However, the mother will not necessarily be present in court for a paternity suit. Paternity suits are usually filed by the Texas Attorney General who is required by law to file such suits against fathers whose children receive public assistance. Any money recovered is reimbursed to the state. In such cases, the mother might not testify because paternity is proved by genetic testing, and the state takes over the burden of proving the father's income.

Modifying Child Support

A court may modify the amount of child support being paid if the court finds there has been a material and substantial change in the circumstances of the child or either parent. Normally, this change involves an increase or decrease in the noncustodial parent's income. In such cases, a court hearing might proceed without the custodial parent because the other parent's income could be proved with evidence from that parent's employer. But if the noncustodial parent's income exceeds $8,550 and the custodial parent seeks additional, or over-guideline, child support, the custodial parent's testimony could be necessary to establish the child's needs are greater than the guideline amount of support. Without evidence of the child's needs, a court has no discretion to award over-guideline child support.

Enforcing Child Support

If the noncustodial parent falls behind on child support payments, either the Texas Attorney General or custodial parent may file a lawsuit to collect the past-due balance. Because child support is paid through the Texas Attorney General's office, the law provides that the record of child support payments maintained by that office is proof of the payments the noncustodial parent has -- or has not -- made. Accordingly, the custodial parent might not be required to testify to the arrearage. But if the noncustodial parent claimed that a loss of employment caused his inability to pay child support and the custodial parent has evidence to the contrary, it might be necessary for the custodial parent to testify in court.

About the Author

Jimmy Verner, a lawyer since 1979, is Board-certified in family law and in civil trial law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Verner practices family law in Dallas.

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