Last Updated April 28, 2022
Child support is designed to provide for the needs of a child in the custody of the other parent. If a parent subject to a government agency or court order for child support stops making payments, the other parent has a legal right to enforce the order. A lawyer for back child support (commonly known as an “arrearage”) can make this process much easier, enabling the custodial parent to recoup money due.
What is an Arrearage?
When a party owes child support but doesn’t pay, most states view that as a continuous violation each month unpaid of the court order. This means that each month, the court will view an amount of child support that remains unpaid as a new judgment against the party that didn’t pay. This may sound confusing, because a ‘judgment’ doesn’t actually get entered each month, but the amount that is unpaid is then subject to potential interest (in many states the interest is 9%). When a court finally adds up all the unpaid support, an actual judgment will be entered, and the back support amount is called an arrearage.
Non-Custodial Parent Obligations
A parent who is required to pay child support should keep the other parent, the court that issued the child support order, and any involved child support agency, updated regarding his or her contact and employment information. This is so that state agencies can continue to collect support when a person changes jobs or moves out of state. The Federal Uniform Interstate Family Support Act is designed to enforce child support orders when the parent relocates to another state. If the personal or financial situation of the individual changes, the court may lower or raise child support. If you do not keep the court updated and change or lose your job, back child support will continue to add up, causing your payments to go into arrears.
How To Collect Back Child Support?
There are several ways that a person can get the back child support they are owed. The first, would be with a lawyer filing a petition for contempt against the parent that has not been paying their court ordered support. In some states, this might be called a Petition for Rule to Show Cause, or a Motion for Show Cause Hearing. This means that the following are true: 1.) A court order was entered saying person A has to pay child support to person B; 2.) person B is not paying (and is therefore, violating the court order); and 3.) that person B has no reasonable explanation as to why they are violating the Court’s order.
If a person is held in contempt of court, there are numerous potential penalties that can be incurred, such as paying the other person’s lawyer fees, jail time, or loss of driving privileges. Many people have their passports taken away (as of the writing of this article, only $2,500.00 in past-due support gets your passport taken away)! Going to court to hold someone in contempt of court for not paying is the best way to get past due child support paid because the potential penalties are very strict.
How To Get Child Support Paid On-Time?
The most typical way to get child support (and back child support that is owed) paid is through a process known as income withholding. When a court issues an order for child support, it typically orders it to be paid direct from the employer to a state disbursement unit who then sends that payment to the parent that is owed child support. If a past due amount is added into the order, those arrears would need to be paid on top of the normal child support amount and all of those payments would come direct from the employer.
Possible Penalties to Force Child Support Payments
Besides being forced to pay for attorneys’ fees or possible jail time, there are many other scary penalties that make enforcement possible. Liens may be placed on property and assets including financial accounts may be seized to recoup past-due child support payments. Parents who are not current with child support payments may find their recreational, driver, and even occupational licenses revoked by agencies with authority in these areas. A passport can even be denied if the applicant is behind with child support payments. These types of penalties imposed on the parent that hasn’t been making the payments is a way to force them to make up the back child support payments.
The Federal Government Monitors Back Child Support
For starters, this is how they enforce their passport privileges – states send the child support arrears information to the federal government on a regular basis. The federal government provides local and state child support offices with relevant information through the National Directory of New Hires, which includes child support case details from all U.S. states and territories. It also operates the Federal Parent Locator Service, which contains information from federal and state government agencies. The Administration for Children and Families Office of Child Support Enforcement has a website that provides information about the child support enforcement program, policy matters, back child support enforcement, and more.
Next Steps to Collect Past Due Child Support
First, start organizing all the paperwork available, from court orders to financial information that you know about. Organization is key as it will help to perform a calculation on the amount of back child support that is owed. The best way that parents can educate themselves about their child support rights is to read even more information available on child support here. Once educated on the basics, a free evaluation from a child support lawyer that deals with back child support is another source for information and assistance with this issue.
Dealing with the problem head-on is the recommended way to resolve it. The longer that back child support goes unpaid, the worse off the custodial parent may be, both financially and emotionally. Going after the other parent for money that is owed is the best approach even though it may be uncomfortable. This is why having a lawyer on your side helps – they know the law and they will handle the communications as well. Making sure your children have the financial support they deserve (and that the court ordered) is important and taking the necessary steps is what a good parent does for their family.