Enforcing Child Support: What Are A Parent’s Options?
Often two of the most complex, divisive, and challenging issues for spouses going through a divorce are child custody and child support. Once the terms have been decided, enforcing child support can sometimes be a very difficult proposition, and dealing with a delinquent parent presents a unique set of problems and potential solutions.
Enforcing Child Support
Once custody and child support terms have been established in the divorce settlement, the child support order must be obeyed.
However, if not obeyed, the custodial parent(s) may ask an attorney of the local Office of Child Support Services (OCSS) for help with enforcing child support requirements.
To aid the custodial parents, OCSS may subject the delinquent parent to any or all of the following enforcement conditions:
- Wage Deductions – the custodial parent, his or her attorney, or OCSS can request an income withholding order or wage assignment. With a wage deduction, child support is taken directly out of the non-custodial (paying) parent’s wages.
- Federal Income Tax Intercepts – the state can intercept a large tax refund to cover late or missing child support payments.
- License Suspensions and Revocations – a delinquent parent’s driver’s license(s) and/or professional license(s) may be revoked.
- Passport Restrictions – a parent that fails to pay child support may be prevented from renewing his or her passport (and therefore prevented from leaving the country).
- Contempt of Court – this is a legal order that may result in a fine or jail time for the parent who failed to make court-ordered support payments. However, the custodial parent (or his or her attorney) must go to court to obtain this order from a judge.
It’s important to remember that OCSS does not represent either parent specifically, but rather acts on behalf of the state to ensure children receive the financial support they need.
Federal Prosecution Of Delinquent Parents
In cases where a delinquent parent no longer lives in the same state as their child resides, certain conditions may cause the U.S. Office of the Inspector General (OIG) can intervene. Those conditions are:
- Refusal to pay child support for over 1 year
- The amount owed is more than $5000
- The non-custodial parent travels to another state or country to avoid paying child support
If any of those conditions are met (or any combination of the three), the OIG has the power to take action.
Punishment can include fines and up to 6 months in prison (or both) for a first offense. For a second offense, or where child support hasn’t been paid for more than 2 years, or the amount owing is more than $10,000, the punishment is a fine of up to $250,000 or 2 years in prison, or both.
For custodial parents having difficulty enforcing child support, the best thing to do first is contact a reputable family law attorney. An experienced attorney will know how to help with enforcing child support and ensure all available legal action is taken on the custodial parent’s behalf.
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