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Child Support Law

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How Do You Enforce a Child Support Order?

If you need to enforce your child support order, you have a number of options available to you. Whichever of the following routes you choose, however, it’s always helpful to discuss your situation with a family law attorney for guidance.

Overview of Options

Whether your ex has recently refused to make their court-ordered payments or is paying less than the child support order dictates, there are steps you can take. Options include:

  • Filing court paperwork to enforce the order
  • Requesting help from your local child support enforcement office
  • Wage garnishment

You may choose to file the initial paperwork on your own instead of hiring a lawyer, but you may find greater success with the weight of an experienced attorney behind you. In any case, all states have a child support enforcement agency where you can get help with child support enforcement for free or pay a small fee.

Child Support Enforcement Office

Your local child support enforcement agency has a variety of methods to help you in enforcing payments.

Options include:

  • Intercepting state and federal income tax refunds
  • Seizing lottery and casino winnings
  • Placing liens on real estate and vehicles
  • Suspending driver’s licenses
  • Suspending fishing and other recreational licenses

Child support enforcement agencies also have the power to suspend professional licenses such as real estate or teaching licenses

In some circumstances, contempt proceedings will result in jail time for the parent who refuses to comply with a child support order. While incarceration is rare, it is a remedy that courts will use to encourage parents to comply.

Wage Garnishment

With this type of recourse, your ex gets paid, but you get a portion of each paycheck. Your state’s child support enforcement agency – or, depending on the state you live in, the court itself – can issue an order to garnish or withhold directly and your ex’s employer has to comply. If you don’t know where the other parent works, your child support enforcement agency often can access this information.

Automatic income withholding is commonly set up in many states when the initial child support order is put into effect. Wage garnishment is effective with past due amounts that were not able to be collected through automatic income withholding.

Automatic income withholding, wage garnishment and other similar options may not be the best route if the obligor – or the paying parent – is self-employed.

Heading Back to Court

If you still need help enforcing payment based on your court-ordered child support order, you still have options. A contempt motion can be filed against the other parent in most states for failure to pay.

Filing for contempt is a request to the court to enforce its child support order. Failure to pay could result in time behind bars or other sanctions against the delinquent parent. In many states, you can submit this paperwork on your own.

Enforcing an Out-of-State Child Support Order

If the other parent moves out of state, you can still get your child support order enforced. Most child support enforcement agencies across the country will work cooperatively with other agencies. There are complications that come when trying to enforce an out-of-state order, so it is best to consult with a local attorney on the process for enforcing your child support order.

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