A person who pays child support (an “obligor”) may be overcharged or overpay their child support due to numerous issues with the processes by which support is assessed and by which payments are collected and applied. Have you overpaid child support by accident, been overcharged by the child support disbursement unit, or received a notice that your tax return or income was garnished by an amount over the support owed? If you are an obligor who was overcharged or overpaid your child support obligation, you can take steps to receive the proper credit for child support you have overpaid, or even get your money back in certain circumstances.
Obligors who pay support to the recipient (“obligee”) directly by check, cash, venmo, cash app, or any other payment method outside the child support disbursement unit regularly do not receive full credit for payments they have made, even when the parties have agreed or have a court order that permits alternative forms of payment, because the child support disbursement unit does not automatically receive records of direct payments. Obligors often find they have overpaid when their income or tax return was garnished over the amount required. Overpayment is also common after a modification of custody or the support obligation. On some occasions, the child support disbursement unit will notice overpayments and take steps to correct them (e.g. offering the obligee a payment plan to return the overpaid funds).
Can overpayments be reimbursed or credited to future support obligations? Yes. However, without proper legal guidance, you may find it overwhelming, time consuming, and costly to determine what has been paid and what is truly owed, if anything.
A good first step for someone who has overpaid child support is to review the financial activity report associated with your case. Your financial activity report from the Office of the Attorney General is available by logging in at this link. Your report will show how much support is assessed for each category (child, medical, dental) for the last few years and any payments made since the records have been kept in the current system. If your overpayment happened before the new system was in place, you can get earlier records from the county of the child support order at issue.
If you notice a discrepancy between the support you have paid and payments credited to you in the records of the OAG, you may be entitled to reimbursement or credit for overpayment. If you can prove that you have overpaid, you are likely entitled to credit for support received and that credit lowers the balance you will owe. The remedy in your situation generally depends on whether you have a continuing support obligation/if the support obligation has terminated (e.g. no more support will be owed because the child is emancipated, or 18 years old and graduated from high school).
If you have an ongoing support obligation (i.e. a child for whom you pay support is not emancipated and is still a minor or in high school), you may write a letter to the child support disbursement unit directing the unit to return your overpayment to you or allocate the overpaid support to your future obligations. For example, if you have overpaid $2,000, you can ask the child support disbursement unit to apply that credit to your support each month at a rate of $100 per month. If it is possible, the child support disbursement unit should comply with your expressed intention, so you could receive a discount of $100 in your support payments for the next 20 months. While this is not a true discount (because you already overpaid the $2000), notifying the disbursement unit of your intention for the funds allows you to apply the support as you prefer. You should consult with an experienced attorney to determine what you can do now given the special circumstances in your case. If you are in arrears after payment, your expressed intention for the funds has no weight and you have no right to sue the obligee for return of any overpayment.
If your support obligation has terminated (i.e. all children are grown or emancipated and you are not expected to pay further support), you can recover support paid in excess of the support order from the obligee (support recipient) if you are not in arrears at the time of filing the suit. The obligor (payer of support) can bring suit against the obligee whenever the youngest child affected by the order is 18 or all children are either at least 18 years old or emancipated. We recommend bringing this type of suit as soon as possible after all children affected by the support order have reached 18 years of age or been emancipated. If you have overpaid support by $4,000 or more, it may be worthwhile to file a suit to recover the overpayment.
If you have a continuing support obligation (i.e. children under the age of 18 or still in school), overpayments are generally credited to your future obligation and used to cover future support you are expected to owe. This usually means you will not receive a refund. However, if you have notified the child support agency that you would like any overpaid funds is to be reimbursed to you, the agency is required to give effect to your expressed intent for the application of the amount that exceeds the court-ordered amount.
An experienced family lawyer can help you make the most of the remedies provided by Texas law for your situation. Leslie Werner and her team have experience obtaining credits and reimbursement for overpaid child support and know how to help you if you are in this situation. Leslie Werner can be reached by text seven days a week at 361-648-6888.