“They acted like they cared,” one employee of a mom and pop mechanic in East Texas said of his employer. When Justin Meadows began working there, he informed the owners from the start that 50% of his wages should be withheld for child support; “I am trying to, as an adult, do the grown up, adult thing, and fix this, clean this up,” he told a local reporter in Smith County. Meadows’ sentiment is more “grown up” than a lot of clients that family lawyers in Texas encounter, and his priorities to honor his obligations and set his children first are admirable. What happened to his money is not.
Almost $4 billion in child support came from the pockets and garnished wages of individuals residing in Texas in 2014, according to the attorney general’s office. But apparently not all of that $3.8 billion is getting to the right recipients, as Meadows unfortunately found out. He reports that “every once in a while I would get a call from a distraught mother wanting to know where the money is,” but as he was seeing it line-item docked out of his paycheck, he assumed that the problem was on the other end, chalking it up to a backlog at the AG’s office. But sooner or later he began to get suspicious.
Doing what many family lawyers do for their clients who experience similar questions about where there child support has gone, Meadows began to review his records and add up the gaps in his garnished wages and paid-out child support. What he found was $28,000 in discrepancies. More than $32,000 had been taken out of his paycheck, but was money “that never reached his children.” His employers were taking it out and not passing it along to the State of Texas to distribute.
Meadows was devastated. He felt betrayed by the employers he had come to trust after working with for several years, and he was heartbroken for his children he had been working so hard to support.
Family lawyers in Texas reported to a local investigation that because “Texas law holds employers responsible for withheld money that does not get turned over to the state,” the companies can face civil penalties or criminal action, “depending on how long repayment takes.” And it’s a pitiful situation that’s apparently becoming more common. Texas attorneys are “seeing it more often that the employer is actually withholding but not forwarding the money.”
And since it may be difficult for the custodial parent to find one of the family lawyers in Texas familiar with this trend to take their case given the possibility of contentious relationships with the non-custodial parent and difficulty obtaining evidence, it’s often up to the person paying child support to file suit. But many of them are afraid to bring suit against their employer for fear of losing their job. Meanwhile, it appears to be a trending reality that in the Lone Star State, kids are going without, and Texas companies are cashing in.