Featured: Edinburg attorney Ismael “Kino” Flores, Jr., the newly-appointed Associate Judge of the Title IV-D Master Court 2 in Hidalgo County, and the Honorable Missy Medary of Corpus Christi, who is Presiding Judge of the Fifth Administrative Judicial Region.
Photograph By VANESSA FLORES
Edinburg attorney Ismael “Kino” Flores, Jr., son of former longtime Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores, D-Palmview, will be sworn in on Tuesday, March 8, 2016, as the new Associate Judge of the Title IV-D Master Court 2 in Hidalgo County, according to the Honorable Missy Medary of Corpus Christi, who is Presiding Judge of the Fifth Administrative Judicial Region. The Title IV-D Court hears cases that the Texas Attorney General has provided services under Part D, Title IV of the Federal Social Security Act. 42 U S.C. § 651 et seq.. which include locating an absent parent, determining parentage or the establishment, modification, or enforcement of child support or medical support. The court has jurisdiction in Hidalgo, Starr and Jim Hogg counties.
Ismael “Kino” Flores, Jr., son of former longtime Rep. Flores, D-Palmview, appointed as Associate Judge of Title IV-D Master Court 2 in Edinburg
By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Edinburg attorney Ismael “Kino” Flores, Jr., son of former longtime Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores, D-Palmview, is scheduled to be sworn in on Tuesday, March 8, 2016, as the new Associate Judge of the Title IV-D Master Court 2 in Hidalgo County, according to the Honorable Missy Medary of Corpus Christi, who is Presiding Judge of the Fifth Administrative Judicial Region.
The Title IV-D Court hears cases that the Texas Attorney General has provided services under Part D, Title IV of the Federal Social Security Act. 42 U S.C. § 651 et seq.. which include locating an absent parent, determining parentage, or the establishment, modification. or enforcement of child support or medical support.
The court has jurisdiction in Hidalgo, Starr and Jim Hogg counties.
Flores, whose appointment was announced by Medary on Tuesday, March 1, will be sworn in by Medary during a ceremony on Tuesday, March 8, beginning at 1:30 p.m. The event will be hosted by 139th District Court Judge Roberto “Bobby” Flores in the 139th District Courtroom, which is located on the 2nd floor of the Hidalgo County Courthouse in Edinburg.
Food and refreshments will follow the ceremony in the Master Court 2 Courtroom in the Judicial Annex Building.
“Kino Flores’ energy and enthusiasm are contagious. He has impressed me with his desire to serve and care for his community,” said Medary. “Kino will invigorate and bring new life to Master Court 2.”
Flores, who was previously with the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office, has been practicing law since 2009 and is licensed by both the Texas and Florida Bar Associations.
He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2004 with High Honors and a Bachelor of Arts in Government. He received his Juris Doctor from the University of Texas School of Law in 2007.
While in law school, he took on several internships, including serving as a Federal Judicial Law Clerk for the Honorable Ricardo Hinojosa, Chief Judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
Flores also served as a Law Clerk for Vinson & Elkins, L.L.P., and Summer Associate for HillCo Partners, one of the state’s most influential lobbying firms.
Upon graduating from law school, Flores practiced law for Florida Power and Light Energy in Juno Beach, Florida. In late 2008, Flores returned to Texas and opened his own private law practice. While in private practice, Flores handled or assisted 1n the trial of criminal cases, ranging from class-B misdemeanors to first-degree felonies. He also served as a municipal judge for the City of La Joya.
Flores will be joining Judge John Rivera, Associate Judge, Title IV-D Master Court 1 of Hidalgo County, and Judge Carlos Villalón, Associate Judge, Child Protection Court of Hidalgo County.
On April 10, 2015, Flores was appointed chief misdemeanor prosecutor by Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodríguez. Flores had joined the DA’s Office in January 2015, soon after Rodríguez became the district attorney.
“His experience, thus far, has already helped facilitate and improve the working relationship between the DA and law enforcement agencies across Hidalgo County,” Rodríguez said when announcing Flores’s appointment as chief misdemeanor prosecutor. “He is and will continue to be a valuable asset to the office.”
Flores’ father, former Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores, had a major impact on state politics and key advancements in deep South Texas.
The seven-term lawmaker used his legislative seniority and expertise allowed him to successfully champion issues that are crucial to South Texans, including securing more than $1 billion for public education transportation, and health programs for the Valley during his tenure.
Medary was appointed 0n Monday, October 19, 2015 by Gov. Greg Abbott as presiding judge of the Fifth Administrative Judicial Region for a term set to expire four years from the date of qualification.
Medary continues to serve as judge of the 347th Judicial District Court in Nueces County, but assumed the additional responsibilities of overseeing the Fifth Administrative Judicial Region.
She is a member of the State Bar of Texas and life member of the Texas Bar Foundation.
Additionally, she is a former board member of the Corpus Christi Young Lawyers Association and the Coastal Bend Women Lawyers Association, and she is a former director of the Corpus Christi Bar Association, the Commission on Children and Youth and the Children’s Advocacy Center.
Medary received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Missouri and a Juris Doctor from California Western School of Law.
HISTORY OF MASTER COURTS IN TEXAS
Barbara Fritz, who received her law degree from the University of Houston in 1977, is Board Certified in Family Law by served as the Family Law/IV-D Master of the Fourth Administrative Judicial Region beginning in 1987.
On a website maintained by the State Bar of Texas Paralegal Division, she provides detailed insights into the need and roles of master courts in Texas (https://txpd.org/tpj/03/fritz.html):
For many years, custodial parents found it next to impossible to collect child support from a non-custodial parent who chose not to pay. In general, if a child support order was in place and if an attorney could be found to take the matter to court, the most to be expected was a judicial slap on the wrist of the non-paying parent. The results were abysmal. Less than twenty percent of children received any support whatsoever from the non-custodial parent.
Due to the explosive growth in the number of children receiving Aid for Dependent Children, the Senate Finance Committee first considered the extent of the problem in 1973. They learned that the AFDC load had increased from 450,000 families in 1948 to 3 million in 1973. They also learned that 86.6 percent of the absent parents in AFDC families provided no support though custodial parents knew the location of the absent parent in 44 percent of the cases.
The result was an amendment to the Social Security Act, adding part D to Title IV under which the states were required to establish uniform statewide support enforcement programs. While the original intent of this program was to reduce AFDC costs by supporting the states in the aggressive enforcement of child support, provisions were made to help non-AFDC applicants as well. It was felt that child support enforcement could not only remove families from welfare but could keep them off in the first place. Thus the primary task of the IV-D program was two-fold: “cost recovery” and “cost-avoidance”-that is, recovering welfare funds spent in support of dependent children and avoiding further expenditures by helping families stay off welfare.
Though well-intentioned, the program as enacted was not effective. In its first nine years, welfare costs rose and the number of children living in poverty increased. In 1984, Congress started putting some muscle into the program with demands that states pass specific laws in support of the collection efforts. Among the major features were wage withholding, discretionary guidelines for setting child support, and expedited time frames for processing enforcement actions. Collections rose dramatically, more than $1.5 billion between 1984 and 1987. Much of this came from non-AFDC collections and little effect on the growing welfare problem was seen.
Congress addressed the welfare dependency crisis in the Family Support Act of 1988. The major child support enforcement sections of this Act required states to automatically establish wage withholding for all child support awards; implement mandatory child support guidelines; develop a computerized enforcement tracking and monitoring system; and meet established performance standards for paternity establishment.
CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT WAS A STUBBORN PROBLEM
In Texas, the IV-D program was originally operated by the Texas Department of Human Services along with the AFDC program. The Office of the Attorney General was named the official IV-D agency in 1985. The problem of support enforcement in Texas remained a stubborn one, as a special Texas census by the Department of Human Services in 1989 showed. The study found that of children ages 0-17 with the potential to receive child support payments, 24.3 percent received regular payments, 9.4 percent received occasional payments, and 24 percent received no payments. Even worse, 42 percent of Texas children did not have a child support order established. As can be seen from these statistics, the problems were numerous.
The IV-D masters program was established in Texas in 1988. The masters in this program are chosen by the presiding judges of the judicial regions and are employed by the Office of Court Administration as part of the judiciary and are totally independent of the Attorney General. The purpose of the program is to provide a judicial forum exclusively for the IV-D cases. This is a necessity in light of the number of cases handled on a daily basis. In metropolitan areas a masters court may have dockets of as many as 150 cases or more on a single day. In smaller counties, dockets range from a few cases to as many as 40 to 50 cases daily. District judges for whom the masters sit cannot manage this caseload in addition to their trials and hearings. Before the establishment of the masters program, many cases were put off due to the courts’ lack of time. These delays made it impossible for the Attorney General to meet the time table required by the federal government.
The IV-D program has changed the face of our land with respect to child support and its collection. The program extends to every state, every parent and every employer. Through a combination of carrots and sticks (providing and withholding federal funds), the program now provides free resources for custodial parents to establish and enforce child support orders. It has developed new standards for the amount of child support to be ordered and expanded the means by which support may be collected. Though the methods may differ from state to state, all are focused upon placing the responsibility for the support of children directly upon the parents.
This program has provided effective tools for the enforcement of support. Some are simple, such as the requirement that the social security number for all parties in any suit affecting the parent-child relationship be included in all orders. This requirement aids in locating parents, locating employers, withholding from unemployment and workers compensation payments, and in utilizing the IRS offset against tax refunds.
PARENT LOCATER SERVICE CREATED
Frequently the initial problem in the establishment and collection of child support is an inability to locate the absent parent. In conjunction with the federal government and with other states, the Texas Attorney General operates the Parent Locator Service. It provides a computer search of employment data, tax filings, license applications, of various kinds, auto registrations, workers compensation claims and criminal records among other data bases. Ultimately, as the program expands, a nation-wide search will be possible. At the present time, searches must be made on a state by state basis.
The most productive aid in support collection is the employer’s withholding order. The Texas Family Code, Sec. 154.007, requires that all child support orders include withholding provisions except for good cause shown. The statute also requires that a child support order without a withholding provision must be construed as having one. When a withholding order is in place with an employer, orders to subsequent employers may be issued by attorneys so authorized. (Texas Family Code, Sec. 158.319).
Probably the next most effective methods of enforcement are those carried out judicially, not so much for amounts collected in court but for the knowledge of what court action can do. The power of the court, upon a finding of contempt, to incarcerate a person for as much as 180 days and thereafter until the support arrearage is paid, offers the ultimate punishment for a non-paying parent. In addition, the court can grant a judgment for support arrearage which can then be enforced by garnishment, turnover orders, sequestration and execution against property, as well as through the filing of child support liens.
It is important to remember that the changes brought about by the IV-D program are not limited to welfare cases or to cases handled by the Attorney General. These changes are now embedded in the Texas Family Code and affect the courts and the private practice of law as well.
While much has changed and is changing in the collection of child support, one thing remains true. It is still impossible to collect from a person who does not work and has no resources. In the words of the old saw, “You can’t get blood from a turnip.”
Emily Jirovec and Joanna Treviño contributed to this story. For this, and other related stories, please log on to http://www.EdinburgPolitics.com