Criminal Nonsupport Handbook
The OAG and Child Support Collection in Texas
In 1975, the federal government determined that the best way to help women and children move from public assistance to self-sufficiency was to help them collect child support from the fathers. To ensure that states followed through with this idea, a state's receipt of welfare funding (under Title IV-A of the Social Security Act) was tied to its creation and operation of a child support enforcement program (under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act; hence the name “IV-D”.) [S. REP. NO. 1356, 93d Cong., 2nd Sess. (1974)]
Until 1985, this responsibility was shared by district and county attorneys and the Texas Department of Public Welfare. In 1985, the function was transferred to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG).
Nationwide, the child support program is governed almost exclusively by federal regulations. Title IV-D, 42 U.S.C. §651 et seq spells out in great detail the standards state programs must meet to qualify for funding.The Role of the OAG
Texas is Unique
Texas is one of only three states that makes the attorney general responsible for child support collections and one of only two states where child support is the responsibility of an elected official.
Texas is one of only a handful of states with a statewide consolidated program. In most states, programs are run at the county level. In some states, the non legal program is state based, but in-court activities are the responsibility of the local district or county attorney's office or private contract attorneys.
The Office of the Attorney General is the state's Title IV-D agency. [Texas Family Code § 231.001] These duties are handled by the OAG's Child Support Division, under the supervision of the Deputy Attorney General for Families and Children. By statute, this person must report directly to the Attorney General. [TFC § 231.0012]
As the state's IV-D agency, the OAG provides the following services:
What the OAG Does Not Do
- parent locator services
- paternity determination
- child support and medical support establishment
- review and adjustment of child support orders
- enforcement of child support and medical support orders
- collection and distribution of child support payments[TFC § 231.101]
The OAG is not authorized to handle divorces, address property issues, or enforce visitation or custody provisions.
The AAGs who work in the Child Support Division represent the state and not any parties in the suit. The OAG does not represent the children, nor can its AAGs be appointed as ad litems or "friends of the court". [TFC § 231.109]
Local Rule Offices
The OAG has contracted with several counties to provide IV-D services for all divorce cases in the county, usually handled through the local domestic relations office. The district judges in those counties have enacted a local rule declaring that all divorce decrees entered after a certain date will be treated as IV-D cases. The parties may opt out of this referral. [TFC § 231.0011(c)]
The OAG's child support records contain information from many sources, including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), credit bureaus, and other state and federal agencies. Therefore, by state and federal statute, our records are confidential. [TFC § 231.108]
The OAG gets its cases in two ways:
- A case is automatically referred to the OAG if a person with possession of a child applies for public assistance or Medicaid.
- Individuals may apply for IV-D services, whether or not they have received public assistance. This includes people who have possession of the child but are not the parents, such as grandparents. About 45 percent of the current caseload involves families who have never received any form of public assistance. Texas does not charge fees for IV-D services.
By filing an application or accepting public assistance, the applicant assigns his or her rights in the child support case to the State. [TFC § 231.104] This provides the OAG with standing in the case.
A person who has never received public assistance may terminate services at any time. Those currently receiving public assistance cannot terminate services and must cooperate with the OAG or risk losing benefits. Those who have previously received public assistance cannot terminate services until these benefits have been recouped.
In SFY 2006, the OAG collected $2 billion in child support, second in the nation after California. In 2007, the OAG received the National Child Support Enforcement Association's outstanding program award to recognize the Child Support Division's excellent performance.
Continue to THE OAG AND CRIMINAL NONSUPPORT CASES
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