For a long time, Texas law said that unpaid child support terminated on the death of the noncustodial parent.  This year’s Texas legislature dramatically changed this law by establishing a system for post-mortem child support.

Senate Bill 617 deleted the clause stating that a noncustodial parent’s child support obligation terminates on that parent’s death.  The Bill added Texas Family Code section 154.016.  This section allows a court to require a noncustodial parent to purchase and maintain a life insurance policy or annuity to pay the unpaid child support in the event that the noncustodial parent dies while child support is still payable.

The Bill also added Texas Family Code section 154.015.  This section states that “the remaining unpaid balance of the child support obligation becomes payable on the date the obligor.”  But how is the balance determined?  Section 154.015 directs the court to discount future child support to present value but then also to consider benefits to the child upon the obligor’s death, such as life insurance.  The court then decides whether the child support obligation has been satisfied.  To the extent not satisfied, the child support obligation becomes a claim against the obligor’s estate.

Taken together, these legislative changes operate to protect the child from a loss of child support occasioned by the untimely death of a parent.  Texas Family Code section 154.015 applies only if the noncustodial parent died on or after September 1, 2007.  The other parts of the statute apply to an order for child support issued at any time, even before the Act passed.