Child Support Liens in Texas Personal Injury Cases

child support liens in Texas

What is a Child Support Lien?

A child support lien is a lien filed in order to enforce an previous child support order.  If the obligor (person who owes child support), is behind in child support payments, then the child support payments accumulate.  As they accumulate, the child support obligations can get quite hefty. The Texas Attorney General’s office has an entire division dedicated to enforcing child support orders.  One of the ways they enforce child support is by filing a lien.  Once the lien is filed, it attaches to the property and financial accounts of the obligor.  For purposes of this article, the lien also attaches to the proceeds of settlement or judgment of an insurance claim of the obligor. Filing a child support lien is governed by the Texas Family Code, Sections 157.311 through 157.331. Pursuant to the statute, the lien attaches to any settlement or proceeds of any claim for compensation. This includes claims for personal injury. The purpose of the lien is to secure payment of delinquent child support payments.

How is the Lien is Filed?

The lien originates from a previous child support order usually entered by a judge in the family courts. Once the order is signed and becomes final, it is sent to the Texas Attorney General’s office for monitoring and enforcement by the child support division.  However, if the attorney general’s office is notified that the child support payments are delinquent, then they will proceed to enforce the order. One method of enforcement is for the attorney general’s office to file the lien in the county clerk’s office.  The lien must be filed in the county of the obligor’s residence.

What to Do if You Have a Child Support Lien?

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. If you have a lien in your injury case, it must be satisfied at the time your case is settled.  And, rest assured, the child support enforcement division is very aggressive in enforcing these liens. Then the lien is usually sent to the attorney handling your injury case.  Thereafter, the lien attaches to any proceeds you might 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.

Can the Lien Be Negotiated?

Depending on the circumstances, there might be room for negotiation. This is where your injury attorney tries to negotiate the lien amount for the personal injury settlement to go through. But just because the lien is negotiated does not mean that the balance is written off. Rather, the lien might be negotiated for purposes of finalizing the settlement.  However, any the balance on the delinquency is still owed. 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.

43 thoughts on “Child Support Liens in Texas Personal Injury Cases”

  1. 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

  2. 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?

    1. 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.

  3. Clayton Muller

    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

    1. 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.

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

    1. 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.

        1. When you indicate your agreement and any liens are settled, the insurance company will get you to sign a release agreement and then will pay the money according to your agreement with any lien-holders.

  5. 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?

    1. 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).

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

    1. 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.

  7. 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

    1. 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. 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?

    1. 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.

  9. 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

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

    1. 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.

      1. i have personal injury claim.the other party drunk driving hit run assualt she quwstion is childsupport put lein on any procceds i get.not do i let my laywer know about this so he can naggotate this matter.they have been taking out of work check now im not working might have to have knee surgry because the hit and run can u give me advise.

  11. 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.

    1. 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).

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

    1. 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.

  13. i have personal injury claim.the other party drunk driving hit run assualt she quwstion is childsupport put lein on any procceds i get.not do i let my laywer know about this so he can naggotate this matter.they have been taking out of work check now im not working might have to have knee surgry because the hit and run can u give me advise.

    1. Are you sure your lawyer does not already know about the child support lien? They usually send a lien notice to the attorney. They also send a lien notice to the other insurance company. You might need to let your lawyer know so that, if and when it comes time to settle your injury case, the attorney doesn’t hear about the lien for the first time from the insurance company.

  14. Hello, my cousin Has a pending lawsuit with a company he used to work for. Not for any physical injuries but for defamation of character etc. I am hoping to settle soon an not have this go to trail. If we settle for a lump sum maybe $100k) will this be reported to child support? Does the it go through a process where it has to be reported to the IRS since it’s over $10K? I’m confused how this all works. I owe about $40k back pay. This is not an insurance claim so is will this not be reported?

    1. As for the child support issue, I am not aware of any statutory duty that the company has to report the settlement to child support enforcement. Nevertheless, if the company has a child support withholding order on file, then it may have to abide by the terms of the order. However, if a child support lien has been properly filed with the court clerk, then it will attach to the settlement proceeds. As for the tax issues, the general rule is that “personal injury” settlements are not taxable income. But you should consult with a tax attorney with regard to your specific case.


  16. I have a pending claim for an auto accident.I owe child support for my son who is now 22 years old. His girlfriend and him just had some twins,there not doing to well financially .Long story short is there any way I can negotiate the money that I owe go to him instead of his mother.

    1. I doubt it. Child support is supposed to be paid the the caretaker of the child. That is the person who is out the money for the child’s care. However, if the mother and attorney general’s office agree, then the money may be paid to the child. This is more a question family law than personal injury.

  17. My ex was in an accident and child support enforcement got involved and apparently I am going to be receiving a check since he is in arrears over $40,000. He was very surprised about this. Now, he is asking for our children’s social security numbers to put on the titles of his other vehicles, claiming “if something happens to him and he dies, the children will receive his vehicles.” I am wondering if he is trying to circumvent the child support lien process, if in fact this should happen again. If one of the children’s name are listed on the title, can child support still give the proceeds to me?

    1. I doubt he is going to circumvent anything. The child support division is quite diligent in their collection efforts. As for the vehicle titles, I’m afraid I just do not have an opinion on that. That is something you might need to take up with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.

    1. That is hard to tell. Once the personal injury settlement is funded, payment will be made to the attorney general’s office for the child support lien. It is their office that disburses the money to you for the back child support. You would have to contact them for a status of that payment.

  18. Aw, this was an incredibly nice post. Taking the time and actual effort to create a very good article… but what can I say… I hesitate a whole lot and don’t manage to get nearly anything done.

    1. My preliminary research suggests that, assuming the deceased is the obligor for the child support, then the answer would be “no.” A claim for wrongful death belongs to the wrongful death beneficiaries, such as the surviving spouse, children and parents of the deceased. Therefore, the wrongful death claims are not subject to the debts of the deceased. White v. Davenport, 398 S.W.3d 802, 806 (Tex. App. 2013). However, the survivor claims belong to the estate of the deceased and are, therefore, subject to the debts enforceable against the deceased’s estate, such as child support.

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