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Child Support Enforcement When There is a Failure to Pay

A Guide to Collecting Child Support


There are many reasons a parent can get behind on child support. If there is a temporary cash flow problem this may affect a parent’s ability to pay and should be taken into consideration before seeking a legal remedy to the problem.

A few late payments due to financial problems is not a reason to have a parent thrown in jail for non-payment of child support. Only use the courts in situations where there is a refusal to pay child support on a regular and ongoing basis.

There is a federal law, The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act that governs how states enforce the payment of child support. This is done via a national data base that keeps track of parents who are not paying child support. You may read more at the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement.

What Can You Do When a Parent Doesn’t Pay?

Your state’s child support enforcement office can help you collect child support regardless of where the non-paying parent lives. If the non-paying parent has disappeared he/she can be found by using state agencies such as the Department of Motor Vehicles, or the Federal Parent Locator Service. Your first step would be to file a complaint with your state’s child support enforcement office.

What Happens Once The Non-Paying Parent Is Located?

There are two ways that the OSCE can collect child support arrears from a non-paying parent.

  • Income Withholding:

    If the non-paying parent is working his/her wages can be garnished. You will need an “income withholding order” from a Family Court Judge in order for this to take place. Personnel at your state’s child support enforcement office can tell you how to get one.

  • Income Tax Withheld:

    Thanks to Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, federal and state income tax refunds can be withheld in order to collect child support arrears.

  • Liens on Real and Personal Property:

    States also have laws that allow them to file a lien on real and personal property, orders to withhold and deliver property or seize and sale property and apply the proceeds toward child support arrears.

    In other words, if the non-paying partner owns any property, the state can take possession of the property and sell it. Since property records are a matter of public record, you can go to your local courthouse and search those records in order to find out if the non-paying parent owns any property. It is quite easy to find out of there is a home, land or car owned. Arming yourself with this information before contacting your state’s child support enforcement office can speed up the process.

It is important to be prepared before filing a complaint against the non-paying spouse. Just as in divorce, when attempting to collect back child support you must have a strategy. Before filing a complaint be sure to have the following documents ready to use in your case.

Information About You:

  • Proof that there has been no payment,

  • Bank statements showing the last date you deposited a child support check,

  • Your existing child support order,

  • Your final decree of divorce,

  • Proof of residency in the form of a power or water bill with your address on the envelope,

  • Your children’s birth certificates,

  • Your children’s social security numbers,

  • A photo ID card,

  • Information about your income (tax records, pay stubs, bank records),

  • A description or proof of any real or personal property you know the non-paying parent owns.

Information About The Non-Paying Parent:

  • Full name and date of birth,

  • Current or last known address and phone number,

  • Current or last known work address and phone number,

  • Proof of paternity if available, the parent’s name on the birth certificate is sufficient proof,

  • Social Security number.

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