In many divorce cases,  especially child support cases, one of the parties will usually have the obligation to pay child support to the other party.   A question that arises when a party falls delinquent in child support payments is – can the other party get a lien on my assets?

A claimant may enforce child support by a lien as provided in the Texas Family Code.  The remedies provided by the Texas Family Code do not affect the availability of other remedies provided by law. The lien is in addition to any other lien provided by law. A child support lien arises by operation of law against real and personal property of an obligor for all amounts of child support due and owing, including any accrued interest, regardless of whether the amounts have been adjudicated or otherwise determined  for perfection of the lien.

A child support lien arising in another state may be enforced in the same manner and to the same extent as a lien arising in this state. A foreclosure action under this subchapter is not required as a prerequisite to levy and execution on a judicial or administrative determination of arrearages as provided by Section 157.327 of the Texas Family Code. A child support lien under this subchapter may not be directed to an employer to attach to the disposable earnings of an obligor paid by the employer.

Except as provided by the Texas Family Code, a child support lien notice must contain:

(1) the name and address of the person to whom the notice is being sent;

(2) the style, docket or cause number, and identity of the tribunal of this or another state having continuing jurisdiction of the child support action and, if the case is a Title IV-D case, the case number;

(3) the full name, address, and, if known, the birth date, driver’s license number, social security number, and any aliases of the obligor;

(4) the full name and, if known, social security number of the obligee;

(5) the amount of the current or prospective child support obligation, the frequency with which current or prospective child support is ordered to be paid, and the amount of child support arrearages owed by the obligor and the date of the signing of the court order, administrative order, or writ that determined the arrearages or the date and manner in which the arrearages were determined;

(6) the rate of interest specified in the court order, administrative order, or writ or, in the absence of a specified interest rate, the rate provided for by law;

(7) the name and address of the person or agency asserting the lien;

(8) the motor vehicle identification number as shown on the obligor’s title if the property is a motor vehicle;

(9) a statement that the lien attaches to all nonexempt real and personal property of the obligor that is located or recorded in the state, including any property specifically identified in the notice and any property acquired after the date of filing or delivery of the notice;

(10) a statement that any ordered child support not timely paid in the future constitutes a final judgment for the amount due and owing, including interest, and accrues up to an amount that may not exceed the lien amount; and

(11) a statement that the obligor is being provided a copy of the lien notice and that the obligor may dispute the arrearage amount by filing suit under Section 157.323 of the Texas Family Code.

(b) A claimant may include any other information that the claimant considers necessary.

(c) The lien notice must be verified.

(d) A claimant must file a notice for each after-acquired motor vehicle.

(e) A notice of a lien for child support under this section may be in the form authorized by federal law or regulation. The federal form of lien notice does not require verification when used by the Title IV-D agency.

(f) The requirement under Subsections (a)(3) and (4) to provide a social security number, if known, does not apply to a lien notice for a lien on real property.

Can a child support lien notice or an abstract of judgment for past due child support be filed by the claimant?

Yes, the claimant is allowed to file the lien as follows:

The lien can be filed in any county in which the obligor is believed to own nonexempt real or personal property;  the county in which the obligor resides; or  the county in which the court having continuing jurisdiction has venue of the suit affecting  the parent-child relationship.

Furthermore, a child support lien notice may be filed with or delivered to the following, as appropriate: the clerk of the court in which a claim, counterclaim, or suit by, or on behalf of, the obligor, including a claim or potential right to proceeds from an estate as an heir, beneficiary, or creditor, is pending, provided that a copy of the lien is mailed to the attorney of record for the obligor, if any; an attorney who represents the obligor in a claim or counterclaim that has not been filed with a court; any other individual or organization believed to be in possession of real or personal property of the obligor; or any governmental unit or agency that issues or records certificates, titles, or other indicia of property ownership.

Not later than the 21st day after the date of filing or delivering the child support lien notice, the claimant shall provide a copy of the notice to the obligor by first class or certified mail, return receipt requested, addressed to the obligor at the obligor’s last known address. If another person is known to have an ownership interest in the property subject to the lien, the claimant shall provide a copy of the lien notice to that person at the time notice is provided to the obligor.

If a child support lien notice is delivered to a financial institution with respect to an account of the obligor, the institution shall immediately:  (1) provide the claimant with the last known address of the obligor; and  (2) notify any other person having an ownership interest in the account that the account has  been frozen in an amount not to exceed the amount of the child support arrearage identified  in the notice.

A child support lien is just another remedy for a party to whom child support is owed. The party also has remedies that include child support enforcement by contempt which could result in serious consequences for the obligor party including but not limited to incarceration. Always consult with an attorney if you believe the obligee party is contemplating legal action against you for past due child support.