Child Support Liens and Personal Injury Settlements


Child Support LiensWhat can you do if there is a child support lien on your personal injury case?  In Texas, the attorney general child support division is empowered with the authority to enforce child support obligations.  One way they can do this is by filing a lien on your personal injury case.  Filing a child support lien  is governed by the Texas Family Code, Sections 157.311 through 157.331.  Pursuant to the statute, a child support lien attaches to any settlement or proceeds of any claim for compensation.  This includes claims for personal injury.

In order for the lien to be effective, it must be filed in the county clerk’s office in the county of the obligor’s (the person who owes the child support) residence.   There are some other formal requirements that must be set forth within the lien, but those are too extensive to cover in this article.  Then  the lien is sent to the obligor.  Once the lien is perfected, the lien attaches to any proceeds you might receive, or be entitled to receive, in your case.  However, the lien only attaches to the net amount that is payable to the client after attorney fees, expenses and medical bills.

The Texas Attorney General’s office is usually quite aggressive in pursing child-support liens.  Depending in the circumstances, there might be room for negotiation.  This is where your attorney tries to negotiate the lien amount in order for the personal injury settlement to go through.  But just because the lien is negotiated does not mean that the balance is written off.  On the contrary, the lien might be negotiated for purposes of finalizing the settlement, but the balance would still be pending and owned by the obligor.

One other thing to keep in mind is that negotiating with the other parent is not binding on the attorney general.  The public policy in Texas is that child support is for the benefit of the child.  Likewise, the attorney general views itself as acting on behalf of the child and not the child’s parents.


  1. John says:

    If the amount that you owe child support exceeds a accident settlement is the Attorney General’s entitled to all of it

    • Technically speaking, the child support lien attaches to all proceeds after deductions for attorneys fees and expenses, and any other medical liens (such as a hospital lien). Regular medical bills that are not a lien (such as a therapy, doctor, or chiropractic bill) do not take priority over the child support lien. However, for the sake of settlement, the attorney general’s office will look at your net recovery after all bills are accounted for, and agree to divide that amount with you. But don’t expect much. It will probably be in the neighborhood of a 90/10% or 80/20% split in their favor.

  2. Jeffrey Batson says:

    I don’t have a personal injury case. A woman ran out in front of me at a red light. Child support wants to take the money from the insurance company that will be fixing my truck. Can they do this legally? No one was hurt. Except my truck.

    • I don’t think this issue has been determined by the courts. However, the child-support lien statute is very broad and applies to all proceeds paid in a claim. Did you have a loan on the truck? If so, you might be able to claim that the truck’s lien holder has priority over the child-support lien and should be permitted to repair and preserve its collateral (the truck).

  3. Lisa Gutierrez says:

    Please call me at 682 208 xxxx have questions about back child support and ongoing lawsuit need to get a lien asap

    • I do not handle cases in which a child support lien needs to be filed. That is usually handled by the Texas Attorney General – Child Support Division. I represent clients who are seeking compensation for personal injuries sustained as a result of an accident.

  4. Roy king says:

    If I got injured in a auto accident and I got a claim can the can the child support put a lein and take my claim

  5. Leonardo Longoria says:

    So they can only take what I owe right not more

  6. Barbara says:

    Doe the child support come out of the medical claim or the car claim? The car has a lien on it will the money get paid towards the car or child support?

    • The lien statute does not distinguish between the personal injury claim and the vehicle claim. It attaches to a “claim for compensation” which would include either the injury or vehicle claim. However, a secured lien on the vehicle will have priority over the child support lien. Therefore, the lien holder will get paid first and anything left over is subject to the child support lien.

  7. Jay click says:

    What percentage of my personal injury lawsuit settlement does child support take. Do they take all of the money that I would be getting after lawyers and doctors. Thank you

    • Technically speaking, the child support lien is entitled to recover anything after your attorneys fees and the amounts paid for medical liens, such as hospital liens, Medicare and Medicaid lien’s, etc. That does not include amounts paid for your regular doctor visits.

      However, for purposes of the resolving the case amicably, the child support office will permit you to pay your other providers out of the settlement. But they will not negotiate very much at all with respect to your net recovery. Typically, they will let you keep about 10%. But they do look at other factors such as the amount of the lien, as well as your payment history and past efforts to stay current with your child support. They might also consider other extenuating circumstances such as health or other personal financials issues.

  8. Bo Johnson says:

    If Im the beneciary on a insurance policy, does a child supoort lien apply in this situation?

    • Section 157.317 of the Texas Family Code provides that “a child support lien attaches to all real and personal property not exempt under the Texas Constitution or other law, including…. the proceeds of an insurance policy, including the proceeds from a life insurance policy or annuity contract and the proceeds from the sale or assignment of life insurance or annuity benefits, a claim for compensation, or a settlement or award for the claim for compensation, due to or owned by the obligor….”

      So, to answer your question, I would say that it applies to any insurance proceeds.

  9. Lennette says:

    So my ex got into an accident and insurance advised him the child support department taking a lien out. This happened in December how long does it usually take before the lien is release to his child?

    • I really do not know. This is more of an internal issue with the child support office. But if I were to guess, I would say between 2 to 4 weeks after the child support office receives the money. But, the child support office will not receive their money until after the settlement has been signed and the money has been paid by the insurance company. To find out for sure, you should be able to call the child support office and get a status (if you are the parent of the child).

  10. Thomas says:

    Is there any way to keep my insurance settlement,,without it being garnished from back owed child support.

    • If this is a Texas case, then my answer would be that you cannot avoid a validly filed child-support lien. However, you do have one important bargaining chip. If you do not sign a release, then the insurance company will not fund your settlement and no one will get paid. Not even the child-support. So, you might be able to negotiate with the child-support office to allow some split of the settlement proceeds so that you would be willing to finalize the settlement and get it funded.

  11. Clayton Muller says:

    Are lost wages covered my the CCPA in Texas on the 55%-45% split, just the compensation for lost wages if the settlement agreement states the amount of wages lost from injury? Thank you

    • I do not quite understand your question. However, a child support lien attaches to any part of the settlement, no matter how it is characterized. A child support lien is secondary only to the attorneys fees and other medical liens.

  12. Clo says:

    If I only ask the insurance company to pay my medical bills and medical bills only, not one penny more, can can the attorney general garnish this money?

    • Sorry for the late reply. But to answer your question, a child-support lien appears to attach to any proceeds of a personal injury claim. In the past, the lien only attached to claims based on “negligence.” This meant that first-party claims, such as Personal Injury Protection (PIP) claims, were not attachable. But it seems like every time I go back and read the child-support lien statute, is has been amended to be more and more broad. Reading it now suggests that PIP proceeds are now attachable. See Texas Family Code, Section 157.317.

  13. clay says:

    I think I read in the Texas wage laws that they have to give me 45-50% of my lost wages, child support gets the other half of lost wages and all of the specials? Thanks

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