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Can my tax refund be held for back child support?

Getting behind on court-ordered child support payments is a serious issue. While it may take several months and even years of being behind for the penalties to kick in, once they do they can be quite severe. You're likely to get notices from the child support enforcement agency as soon as you become delinquent. If it is not already, the enforcement agency may also start garnishing your wages to ensure that the payments are made according to your court order.

If you get significantly behind in your payments, the agency may attempt to intercept funds from other places to get you caught up. The government does have the authority to freeze your bank accounts and seize the funds in extreme cases, but one of the more common enforcement methods is to intercept your tax return and put it toward your child support arrears.

Originally, Texas law only allowed this up until the child was 18 unless he or she had been on income assistance or disabled — in which case the tax return could be taken past the age of 18. However, changes to federal law in October 2006 changed this, and it is now legally permissible for a child support enforcement agency to intercept a tax refund to put toward child support arrears no matter how old the child is when the money is collected.

If you are currently behind on child support and anticipating a tax return next year, it's important to talk to a family law attorney. There may be other options or other courses of action you can take — such as making payments now to catch up your arrears — to avoid losing your tax return.

Source: Attorney General of Texas, "Pay your child support to avoid penalties," Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, accessed Dec. 16, 2015

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