Criminal Nonsupport

Texas Criminal Law

Criminal Nonsupport is a Texas crime that criminalizes the refusal to pay child support. Criminal Nonsupport is generally charged when a parent fails to provide the monetary support and the parent of the child who the money is intended to go to notifies law enforcement.

The law requires that the failure to pay child support was done “intentionally” or “knowingly,” but a person who mistakenly believes they are done with their child support payments may be charged with the offense if the state’s attorneys believe that you are actually refusing to pay. A Criminal Nonsupport conviction can land you in state jail, and while the actual time that is required to be served can vary, the specific outcome can depend heavily on the work performed by your criminal defense lawyer.

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Criminal Nonsupport is classified in the Texas Penal Code under Title 6 “Offenses Against the Family,” Section 25 “Offenses Against the Family.” Crimes under this section cover a wide range of offenses that focus on familial, parent, and spousal relationships. They may be sexual or violent crimes, or may be crimes dealing with custody and possession of children.

What is the current Texas law about Criminal Nonsupport?

The current Texas law defines the offense of Criminal Nonsupport in Penal Code Section §25.05 as follows:[1]

(a) An individual commits an offense if the individual intentionally or knowingly fails to provide support for the individual’s child younger than 18 years of age, or for the individual’s child who is the subject of a court order requiring the individual to support the child.

Simply put, it is a crime to intentionally not make court-ordered child support payments for one’s child. It is important to review the court’s child support order with your attorney to ensure that you are fully aware of your obligations and responsibilities towards the child.

What is the range of punishment for Criminal Nonsupport?

In Dallas County and throughout the state of Texas, Criminal Nonsupport is classified as a State Jail Felony. A State Jail Felony is a unique felony that carries a penalty of jail time in a state jail of 180 days to 2 years, and a fine of up to $10,000. At a Judge’s discretion, you may be placed in Jail for a period of up to 2 years unless you start making child support payments again.

I didn’t know that the money wasn’t being sent or received. Can I still be charged?

The law in the state of Texas requires that you “knowingly” or “intentionally” fail to make payments. For example, telling the other parent that you will not pay child support until a certain demand is met shows that you intended to withhold payments. However, if you were sending checks in the mail, but the checks were not being delivered properly and you were not aware of this situation, then you would have no knowledge and therefore should not be convicted of the Criminal Nonsupport. If you are being charged with Criminal Nonsupport and can show that you had no knowledge or intention to not pay, we may be able to win a verdict of not-guilty.

I don’t know that the child I was ordered to pay child support is mine. Does that change anything?

Section 25.05(b)[2] of the Texas Penal Code states that, for the purposes of this offense, the state’s attorney can obtain a conviction even if that child was born out of wedlock, whose paternity is acknowledged by the individual, or whose paternity has been established by a separate civil suit. This means that even if you’re the biological father but never married the mother, then the law will consider the child yours. Even if you don’t have a paternity test, if the court has determined you to be the parent, then you can still be convicted.

I am unable to afford the child support payments. Can I still be charged with the offense?

If you are unable to make payments, then you will be eligible to plead an affirmative defense to prosecution.[3] This means that your defense attorney would have to prove with sufficient evidence that you were unable to make payments. If you have evidence of being laid off, or financial obligations that were not met, then we may be able to prove this affirmative defense and win your case.

I have been making payments, but the other parent still says I have not made payments. Do they need more evidence?

Under Texas law a conviction of Criminal Nonsupport may be sustained solely by the uncorroborated testimony of a party to the offense.[4] That means that the state’s attorney can convict you by relying solely on the word of one parent. Therefore, it is critical that if you have evidence that payments were made (such as cashed checks, signatures for certified mail, or email/letter confirmation) that you provide that information to your criminal defense attorney. With enough evidence showing that you were making payments, it is less likely that the sole word of another party would be enough evidence to convince a jury that you are guilty of Criminal Nonsupport.

Am I still required to make child support payments during the prosecution of this case?

Even if there is an ongoing trial regarding the payments, the court still has the power to make orders relating to child support payment. If you are not sure what your current order from the court requires, it is imperative that you consult an attorney so that you are not in a position to provide further evidence against you in a proceeding for Criminal Nonsupport.

Legal References:

^1. Texas Penal Code §25.05^2. Texas Penal Code §25.05(b) – “For purposes of this section, “child” includes a child born out of wedlock whose paternity has either been acknowledged by the actor or has been established in a civil suit under the Family Code or the law of another state.”^3. Texas Penal Code §25.05(d)^4. Texas Penal Code §25.05(c) – “Under this section, a conviction may be had on the uncorroborated testimony of a party to the offense.”

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