Lien is the legal right to seize property in the event of an unpaid obligation or debt. A number of American states, including Texas, grant liens in the event of unpaid child support. Chapter 157 of the Texas Family Code governs child support lien laws in the state. This chapter belongs to Title 5 of the code, which is entitled “The Parent Child Relationship and the Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship.”
Texas courts may require either or both parents to pay child support. Child support is not considered a debt by the state, but rather an obligation. The amount of a child support payment is based on the net resources of the obligor. Payments are due monthly. Each unpaid child support payment constitutes a separate judgment, by which the obligor owes the amount of the payment plus interest. Interest as of 2010 is set at 5 percent per year. Interest is considered part of the child support payment. Failure to pay child support is punishable as “contempt,” a quasi-criminal charge that may result in as many as 180 days probation.
Basic Lien Law
Child lien in Texas arises on all unpaid child support and accrued interest. Thus a lien may arise immediately after an initial child support payment is unmet or anytime after. Upon approval of the Texas courts a notice of lien will be sent to the obligor and obligee. However, it is against the law to send a notice of lien to an obligor’s employer. Time limits on lien claims range from six months to 10 years after the child on whom support is due turns 18 or the child support obligation is canceled. The length of this period is determined by circumstantial considerations.
Texas code uses the word “attach” to describe property and holdings against which child support lien may be levied. The state may legally seize all attachments in exchange for unpaid support.
Permissible attachments for child support lien include bank accounts, stocks and bonds, insurance benefits, retirement accounts, vehicles, household furnishings, livestock and personal possession. Child support lien may not be levied against homestead property or the proceeds from the sale of a homestead property for six months after the sale. Workman’s comp payments are not valid for attachment. The Texas Office of the Attorney General receives information from financial institutions and insurance companies regarding obligors and is legally permitted to seize such accounts and claims as per lien laws.
Child Support Lien Network
Child Support Lien Network (CSLN) is a national network that helps obligees locate and collect payment or lien in lieu of payment from obligors. The Network maintains a national database that is used to connect obligees to obligors. CSLN maintains a database of child support lien laws in all states and provides advice and assistance to Americans, including Texans, with regards to lien cases. The Network has an 800 number for telephone assistance and lists all proper procedures and legal options for those pursuing child support lien in Texas (see Resources).