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What to do when noncustodial parents claim to be poor

Some noncustodial parents, in an effort to avoid paying child support, choose to live in poverty. They may rely on unreported freelance work to make ends meet and contribute less than their fair share to their children's expenses. The Texas child support enforcement system takes this kind of behavior very seriously. The first step for a custodial parent to take is filing for a formal child support order.

Informal child support orders rely on good faith. Although the noncustodial parent may intend to make regular monthly payments when they enter into the agreement, their income and everyday expenses may change over time, making it more challenging to support two households. Instead of relying on an ex-spouse to keep up with an informal arrangement, a custodial parent could use the state child support system to get a court order and collect payments on their behalf.

Once they've opened a case with the child support system, parents can expect the state to determine the appropriate amount of support by calculating both parents' income and expenses and then making a determination of how much they should each contribute toward their child or children's care. For this to work, parents have to be honest about their income. Noncustodial parents who claim to earn less than they have in the past may get a support order based on imputed income. The state may consider their work history, education and assets to determine how much they should be able to earn and base the support order on that amount rather than the salary they actually earn.

Getting a court order based on imputed income could be a long process. By working with an attorney who has experience in the family court system, a custodial parent may be able to get answers to their questions while putting pressure on the child support agent to follow up on concerns that the noncustodial parent might be voluntarily impoverished.

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