Last Updated: December 13, 2022

Back Child Support

For parents, knowing their child support rights includes understanding how to get their back child support paid. A court award of child support to one parent does not guarantee that the other parent will pay. When the balance begins to add up, action must be taken before the child is negatively affected. Divorce attorneys handle back child support cases and speaking with one can get you started down the right path with a free consultation to help you learn your rights.

Laws Affecting Back Child Support

The federal government, each of the 50 states, and the District of Columbia, all have mandatory child support enforcement agencies. Federal and state laws take tough stances with non-custodial parents who do not pay court-ordered child support. The term “deadbeat parents” is even included in the titles of some state laws regarding back child support, reinforcing the message that these individuals are not looked upon fondly. Though child support enforcement is handled by each state, the procedures are very similar among all states.

State Child Support Enforcement

State and district attorneys are authorized to act on behalf of custodial parents to collect back child support, per the Child Support Enforcement Act of 1984. Technically, the state’s attorneys do not represent the parent that is owed the support, but they act in the best interests of the children on behalf of the state. Non-custodial parents that refuse to comply with child support orders are subject to penalties that include removal of certain privileges, such as: a passport, a drivers license, a business license, and even jail time. States attorneys do not hesitate to garnish wages, freeze bank accounts, and place liens on property to help get back child support paid.

In some cases, a child support case extends beyond state boundaries. The Federal Uniform Interstate Family Support Act  (UIFSA) applies in multi-state disputes regarding past-due child support. A second state must defer to a court-mandated child support order entered in the home state of the child. In addition, only the law of the state where the order was entered will apply to requests for modification. The custodial parent may mail the order to a court or employer in another state for assistance with reinforcement.

Getting Back Child Support Paid

While the state ordinarily handles past due child support enforcement cases without a cost to the custodial parent, they are often slow and, in many instances, ineffective. Ordinarily, states attorney child support cases are all handled through a central office in a state. Then, each county has their own states attorneys that work in a specific county only when a file is transferred to them from the main office.

Take Cook County, Illinois for example. There are likely 30-40 states attorneys working in the child support division in a county like Cook County, Illinois (the busiest court system in the entire country). Cook County has millions of child support cases at any given time. The amount of in-depth examination a case gets is minuscule, if it even pops up on the radar in the states central office.

This is where hiring an attorney instead of using the state makes the most sense if a custodial parent wants to get their back child support paid sometime soon. Your case will be handled quickly and motions will be filed within weeks instead of months (or even up to a year). Divorce attorneys handle back child support cases all the time, many attorneys handle multiple dozens of them every single year.

Get Back Child Support Paid – Enforcement

Enforcing payment of back child support payments that are owed is a process that isn’t overly complicated (or so it seems). Different states call the motion to enforce something slightly different but it is usually called a “Petition for Rule to Show Cause” or “Motion for a Show Cause” hearing. It’s a weird sounding name, right? This motion is meant to hold the non-paying parent in indirect civil contempt of court – which is a very serious issue.

Below is what it means and what must be proven to win and get your back child support paid through a contempt motion (rule to show cause):

  1. An Order for child support was entered by the court;
  2. The Order was not complied with (payment wasn’t made);
  3. The non-paying parent has no reasonable excuse why he/she didn’t pay;
  4. The non-paying parent should be held in contempt of court and ordered to comply with the court order.

Contempt Penalties

When a non-paying parent is held in contempt of court, the court will force that parent to comply with the court order, usually by initially ordering a “purge”. A purge is a way for the non-paying parent to ‘purge themselves of contempt of court’, usually by making some type of lump sum payment of all or a chunk of the back child support that is owed.

If the non-paying parent does not complete his/her purge, the court can order that they have their driving privileges suspended, suspend their business license, professional license (ie. Nurse, contractor, CDL, etc.), and even put them in jail until they pay. Contempt has serious penalties. The judge will also order, if a person is held in contempt of court, to pay for a part of or all of the attorneys’ fees the innocent parent incurred by having to enforce the child support order.

Bankruptcy Does Not Erase Back Child Support

If a non-custodial parent is in financial distress, even bankruptcy will not discharge back child support. This individual must formally request a child support modification and prove necessity by revealing the financial situation. If this motion is not filed, the court may issue a default judgment of child support delinquency or back child support will continue to add up (and interest accrues on the past-due child support amount as well)!

Next Steps

A custodial parent who is having trouble collecting past-due support payments should consult with a divorce lawyer for a free consultation right here. State and federal child support laws can be difficult to decipher, and they are often quite confusing (both the law and the unwritten process). Child support is meant to take care of children – put a roof over their heads and food on the table. When a parent doesn’t pay, they are hurting children. Don’t wait until something bad happens, act now, getting back child support paid is the right thing to do for your family.

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3 thoughts on “How To Get Your Back Child Support Paid”

  1. we live in Edmonton ky our child support office will not help us get any help on this cituation NOTHING They can do is what she says my granddaughter never received any BACK child support from her dad of 14 yrs that is when SHE wanted to take her dad to court mainly to show she exsist she then started her child support since then he still ignores her CAN she get back child support onhim from birth he has denyed her since birth

  2. I have fought the child support system in Versailles indiana for almost 17 years to get the support for my son Devin Charles Combs born 4/9/1996 that was ordered by court for him to pay. He has had many jobs over the years and never keeps them long the only time I get the support I am supposed to is when he keeps a job that comes right out of his check. He drops off 40.00 every 6 weeks or whenever he wants to. This man keeps jobs that pays him cash now so they can’t do a support withholding on him. I call the child support system everyday and get the same answer we have to set a court date set up,he is over 2,000 back just in the year not counting the other amount he was behind. I just don’t know what to do the Versailles child support clearly does not do their job. My husband works construction and we have 3 more children I need help on what to do.please email me. Amy Yorn

    1. familylawrights

      The state typically does not work supper hard or fast for you in child support matters. Hire a private attorney–it will pay off in big ways because they will be all over your ex. They will find his jobs, garnish his wages, and even intercept his paycheck. If he is in violation of a court order, they may even be able to file a petition for attorneys fees for forcing you to come back to court with an attorney to collect what you are due. Don’t waste any more time, act now!

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