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Child Support Enforcement

Children need emotional and financial support from both of their parents to help them grow up to be successful adults, and provide them with a solid basis for becoming responsible parents. When a parent decides not to pay child support, enforcement may be necessary so that parents meet their financial obligation to their children. To ensure this, child support enforcement programs provide custodial parents with assistance in obtaining financial and medical insurance coverage for children by: locating parents, establishing paternity, and by establishing, adjusting, modifying, collecting, and enforcing child support orders.

When parents choose not to meet their child support obligations, child support enforcement agencies support the orders. Child support enforcement officers use various tools and activities to enforce orders and collect support. The purpose of strong enforcement activities is to stress the importance of paying support, not to penalize obligors. While some enforcement activities are more intrusive than others, every enforcement activity requires that certain criteria be met before the child support agency can use it.

Child support enforcement can have the driver's license or an occupational license of a parent suspended for delinquent payments. If a parent is at least three months, and at least $500 behind in paying their child support obligation, and is not following a payment plan, they can have these licenses suspended.

Payment agreements may prevent a license from being suspended and the child support enforcement office, the court, or a magistrate can set them up. The individual's financial circumstances will be considered when a payment plan is set. Child support enforcement offices notify the delinquent parent in writing, giving the parent 90 days to pay the past-due balance, enter into a written payment plan with the child support office, or request a hearing.

A child support enforcement agency can also stop a delinquent parent from obtaining a passport. Passport applications may be denied if parents are at least $5,000 past due in their child support obligations and are not following a payment plan.

The child support enforcement office can collect past-due child support from a parent's federal and state income tax refunds, state or property tax credits, and state lottery winnings. Money intercepted from tax refunds that were filed jointly may be held by the state office to allow time for injured spouses to file a claim. Federal tax intercepts are applied to public assistance debts first.

The child support enforcement office can link parents owing past-due child support with their financial assets. If parents are past due at least five times the monthly support obligation, parents are not following the payment plan, or debtors have been certified to intercept tax refunds, matching with financial institutions may be used. If these criteria are met, a child support enforcement agency may choose to levy a parent's assets to pay child support debts. Assets may be frozen even when other account holders are listed with the obligor. They may also take employment bonuses and periodic or lump sum payments parents receive from state or local agencies, including unemployment insurance, worker's compensation, and lottery winnings. The child support office may also take assets held in financial institutions or in retirement funds.

The court may find parents in contempt if they have the ability to pay but are not paying their child support obligation. The court may sentence parents to serve time in jail. Contempt is used only when other enforcement tools have failed and county attorneys approve it. A parent may also file a motion with the court for contempt.

Child support enforcement may be the most effective way to receive delinquent child support payments. Each state has different laws regarding child support enforcement and you can contact your local child support enforcement office for help.

If you would like more information on legal help and child support, please contact us to learn your legal rights.

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Issues Regarding Child Custody

Child Custody Rights

Child custody rights may be shared by both parents or, primary child custody rights may be awarded to one parent or legal guardian. Since the 1970s the family court will award child custody rights contingent with the best interests of the child.

Custody for Fathers

Child custody for fathers following a divorce is one of the most important aspects of a dissolving marriage. Throughout history the legal presumptions about child custody for fathers has changed significantly. Before the twentieth century children were regarded as the property of their father. Under common law, child custody for fathers was commonly awarded, as children were considered a father's rightful property. A major shift occurred after this period in history, as family courts came to favor mothers in child custody cases. It was presumed that under normal circumstances, children did better when placed in the sole custody of their mothers.

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