Child support matters involve state authority
David Barkemeyer
Milam County Judge

I f you happen to come by the Court House on the first Tuesday of the month you may wonder why the hallway on the first floor and the county courtroom are filled to overf lowing with mothers and dads, usually including a number of small children here and there among the crowd.

This is what we affectionately refer to as “Father’s Day” Court around the office.

This is when all child support matters filed by the Attorney General’s office are being brought to court. Title IV-D of the Federal Social Security Act of 1975 established the law governing child support in the United States and authorized the states to set up an agency to administer the law. In Texas the Attorney General’s Office Child Support Division was established to do that and Section 231 of the Texas Family Code spells out the details of the service required and authorized by Title IV-D that they are to carry out.

These services are categorized in six areas: 1. Parent location services; 2. Paternity determination; 3. Child support and medical support establishment; 4. Review and adjustment of child support orders; 5. Enforcement of child support and medical support orders; and 6. Collection and distribution of child support payments.

The Third Administrative Judicial Region of Texas, a six-county area including Milam County has a special associate judge designated, Judge Michael J. Nelson, who comes to Milam County once per month, usually on the first Tuesday, to hear cases relating to the interpretation and enforcement of Title IV-D and Section 231.

So Judge Nelson in his court sessions held here in Milam County hears all cases filed by the Attorney General’s Office to establish, modify, or enforce child support orders.

This is not to be confused with divorce cases which are heard in Judge John Youngblood’s 20th. District Court; however either party in the divorce case may later, after the divorce is settled, request the Attorney General’s office to help modify or enforce the child support provisions in the divorce, and at that point the case would be referred down to Judge Nelson’s court.

The attorney general also files cases involving unmarried parents and married parents who are separated but not divorced which result in the establishment of child support orders; these are handled in Judge Nelson’s court as well.

Another point that I want to clarify is that even though Judge Nelson’s Title IV-D Child Support Court is being held in the county courtroom as a matter of convenience, the Milam County Constitutional Court for which I am County Judge (which is also conducted in this courtroom) has no jurisdiction over divorce cases or child support matters.

So in general this Title IV-D Court has been established to handle child support matters; however, in any cases heard in Judge Nelson’s Court, parties have a right to request a new trial in Judge Youngblood’s court. In addition, Judge Youngblood also handles cases involving child support matters in which the attorney general’s office is not involved, for example when someone hires a private attorney to enforce their order rather than requesting help from the Attorney General.

I hope this explanation has been helpful in giving you a better understanding of the things that go on in your county courthouse.

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2013-04-25 digital edition

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