In Texas, there are several free legal programs to help both mothers and fathers with child support and custody issues. Under Texas law, the noncustodial parent, or parent who does not live with the child, is responsible for paying child support. Support awards in Texas are not based on combined incomes of both parents, but based on the income of the noncustodial parent and the number of children that parent is responsible for supporting.
In Texas, courts presume that shared physical or joint custody arrangements are in the best interests of children. In joint custody cases, one parent will be the “primary joint conservator,” or custodial parent who resides with the child. There are several pro bono groups in Texas that offer free legal assistance to parents. The Texas State Bar Association offers helpful resources, listing the resources by county. In El Paso, free paralegal help is available through the county’s Domestic Relations Office. In Bexar County, parents can find free pro se help, or help with self-representation, through the District Court’s staff attorneys.
The TexasLawHelp.org web site offers over two dozen free resources. Parents can find free help modifying their divorce decrees with the Modification Kit. The kit contains all of the legal forms and instructions to aid parents in modifying a divorce decree. The site also contains a child support calculator to help parents calculate their child support responsibilities and entitlements.
Legal Aid of Northwest Texas
The Texas Attorney General and Legal Aid of Northwest Texas maintains the website TXAccess.org. This website is useful for parents who do not have primary custody, often fathers, and it helps noncustodial parents understand their legal rights and responsibilities. The website offers Spanish and English resources, and contains forms that parents can use to change their custody arrangements, modify their support awards, and understand how support is calculated in Texas. The site’s Find a Lawyer resource is a directory of free legal clinics and referral services in Texas offering legal assistance to noncustodial parents. Additionally, the Legal Aid of Northwest Texas collaborates with the Texas Office of the Attorney General in maintaining a toll-free hotline to help noncustodial parents obtain free legal information regarding custody, modification, the legal support process and paternity establishment.
Texas Office of the Attorney General
In Texas, the Attorney General is responsible for enforcing child support awards.The Child Support Division in the Office of the Attorney General helps parents on a case-by-case basis to determine which services can be useful, depending on a parent’s needs. The state offers a paternity establishment process to help fathers establish their legal parenting rights. The state also offers a parent locator service to help a parent find an absent parent to enforce an existing support award. The parent locator service can also help a parent set up an original support order. Fathers can apply for services by visiting the Attorney General’s website or by calling the office. They must complete and submit an application to request the Attorney General’s assistance.
Since state laws can frequently change, do not use this information as a substitute for legal advice. Seek advice through an attorney licensed to practice law in your state.