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Carlos B. Lopez, Constable

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Constable's Notebook - October 2007

Last month Travis County constables conducted an annual roundup to arrest 135 parents who each owed an average $13,000 in delinquent child support payments and failed to appear at one or more court appearances. As of this writing, constables have arrested 58 individuals who owed in excess of $1,115,210.00. These Constable Child Support Roundups are intended to hold parents accountable for their court-ordered obligations to their children or run the risk of being arrested.

Twenty years ago, the collection of child support was viewed by many to be more of an issue for parents to work out between themselves than for government intervention. In 1987, the Travis County Domestic Relations Office (DRO) filed lawsuits on behalf of children who were not receiving government assistance to enforce child support and visitation orders. The state child support enforcement agency had just been transferred to the Attorney General’s office. The AG Child Support Division had a small staff and very few enforcement tools. Attorney General Jim Mattox (1982-90) was persuaded that the state should aggressively enforce court orders for the payment of child support and visitation. He understood that children who do not receive consistent financial and emotional support from both parents are less likely to graduate from high school or receive access to health care. They also are more likely to develop emotional problems and turn to drugs and crime.

Over the last 20 years, General Mattox and his AG successors have worked to pass legislation to address non-payment of child support by allowing the withholding of wages, authorizing liens on property, intercepting IRS refunds, and denying the issuance or renewal of certain licenses and passports. In addition to adding child support warrants to state warrant data banks, these efforts have dramatically increased child support collections in Texas and throughout the nation.

In recent years, federal and state authorities have recognized that in order for child support programs to be effective, issues including visitation, employment, drug addiction, old court orders that do not reflect current circumstances, and understanding how to work with ex-partners in the best interest of their children must also be addressed. State child support officials and DRO now recognize this and are actively working to identify and resolve impediments to the payment of child support.

While child support enforcement programs today are far more effective than 20 years ago, the U.S. General Accounting Office estimates that non-custodial parents owe nearly $100 billion in delinquent child support payments. This is a drop in the bucket compared to what it costs taxpayers to provide for these children or pay for the consequences of not having done so.

Attorney General Child Support Division – (800) 252-8014, www.oag.state.tx.us/cs

Travis County Domestic Relations – 854-9696, www.TravisCountyDRO.com

Travis County Constable Precinct 5 Warrants – 854-9582, www.Constable5.com



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