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Methods of Collecting Child Support

Sometimes, the difference between being able to pay the bills and being in financial trouble is receiving appropriate child support. However, sometimes child support simply does not get paid, whether for malicious reasons, or because unexpected expenses occur for the noncustodial parent. When that happens, you may have to go to court to obtain what you are owed.

Most Common Methods

The most common way that noncompliant parents are made to pay their support obligations is via automatic income withholding (AIW), under the federal Family Support Act. Each state has adopted some version of this law that is either functionally identical to the federal statute or with their own modifications. Income withholding applies to divorce decrees that have both child support and spousal support, or only discuss child support – in other words, you cannot request income withholding if your former spouse is behind on maintenance payments. AIW generally takes effect automatically unless the parties specifically agree to another form of recourse in the event of back child support being owed.

Another way outstanding support obligations are often handled is that if you owe more than $500 (or if you owe $150 and the custodial parent is on welfare), the Department of the Treasury may be notified and your income tax refund may be seized. The rationale for this is that a tax refund is a windfall, and to obtain a windfall while having an outstanding obligation would be contrary to public policy.

These are the most often used ways to address child support arrears when the amount is, by state standards, negligible; if the amount is significantly larger or if it can be shown that you refused out of malice to meet your obligation, you can actually be charged with a misdemeanor. Most states have some version of a non-support punishment law which mandates sentences from small fines all the way up to jail time if you do not pay and it is determined that you are able to.

Federal and State Involvement

Both the federal and state governments have expressed a view that helping custodial parents collect child support is in the government’s best interest. As such, state courts have full authority to intervene and attempt to force payment from a parent who is in arrears and do so under the aegis of the federal government. They can do this in a myriad of different ways.

For example, employers are required to report all new hires to their state’s child support agency. The state agencies coordinate with the federal National Directory of New Hires (NDNH), which checks records to see the new hire’s child support status. If they have arrears, the NDNH sets up automatic income withholding orders. While some may protest this as government overreach, the fact remains that it is effective. Since the inception of the NDNH, delinquent support claims have decreased significantly nationwide, by double digits in almost every state.

Contact a Child Support Attorney

While some may be reluctant to involve an attorney in what is seen as a family matter, having a legal professional on your side can actually speed up the process of either paying or receiving back child support. Experienced child support attorneys, like a family lawyer in Lake Forest, IL, know that sometimes things get complex, and can help make it simpler. 

Thank you to the experts at Hurst, Robin & Kay, LLC., for their input into family law.

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