Collecting Child Support
If you are not receiving the child support you and your child are entitled to, you are not alone, and you do have options. Child support is a court-ordered amount that a non-custodial parent must pay to the custodial parent to cover a certain amount of a child’s expenses. Both biological and adoptive parents are expected to support their children at least until the child reaches the age of 18, and longer in some states that require support for college expenses.
However, to collect child support, you must have a court order. This is a legally binding order issued by a judge. Therefore, filing for child support is very important to do as soon as you and your spouse become separated or, if you are not married, as soon as possible after the birth of your child. Child support orders come into effect as of the date a petition is filed; they cannot be made retroactive. Similarly, collection of child support cannot go further back in time than the date on which the court order came into effect.
Unfortunately, just because a judge issues a child support order does not mean you and your child will receive payments on a timely basis. Indeed, child support delinquencies in the United States have reached an all-time high. According to the Association for the Enforcement of Child Support (ACES), approximately 30 million children are owed more than $41 billion in unpaid child support. ACES also estimates that an additional 9 million children are not even covered by child support orders. This forces many parents into poverty and bankruptcy each year.
How to Enforce Child Support Payments
Because state laws and procedures vary, it is best to consult a qualified child support lawyer who specializes in child support and debt collection to help you and give you the child support information you need. Lawyers who specialize in child support cases will be familiar with the laws and customs in the courts of your state. Also, because they keep abreast of the most up-to-date laws, these child support attorneys can ensure you get full access to the legal channels available for the protection of custodial parents. The whole world of child support collection has been changing over recent years and further adjustments in state laws and processes are likely. Of course, the drawback to seeking the help of lawyers for child custody is often the cost involved. Some attorneys may be able to handle child support cases on a contingency basis. This means he or she will collects fees as a percentage of the back support actually collected. In some cases, attorney fees can be assessed against the party who was supposed to pay the child support but didn’t.
If you cannot afford a private attorney for custody child support, there are still many options available. For example, the Child Support Agency in your state must help you collect child support for a small fee. These agencies may even provide you a “free” attorney if needed. The assistance these agencies provide usually includes serving the delinquent parent with an Order to Show Cause, which means the non-custodial parent will have to go to court to explain why he or she has not been making payments on time. In such cases, he or she may have to make payment arrangements. A judge can even find the delinquent parent in contempt of court for child support fraud and send him or her to jail until the child support payment is made.
If your ex-spouse is employed, a Child Support Enforcement Agency can also help you file for an income withholding order. This is a court order that requires an employer to deduct a certain amount from the non-paying spouse’s paycheck and forward it to you or a state agency. Under federal law, wage withholding must be permitted if child support payments are 30 days or more past due or if three consecutive payments have been missed. However, in most states, the amount that can be deducted is limited to 50-65 percent of each paycheck.
State attorneys and district attorneys are also available to help parents with the collection of child support. In most cases, these attorneys provide their services at little or no charge. If your ex-spouse has moved to another state, the district attorney can seek payment under the Revised Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (RURESA). This Act enables the court in one state to contact the court in the jurisdiction where your ex-spouse lives and require him or her to pay the child support due.
Although there are a variety of options to help you get the money you deserve, most involve seeking judgments from the court system. If you have any questions, please consult an attorney or child support enforcement agency. Although it can be difficult to avoid allowing emotions to creep into situations involving unpaid child support, it is best to look at this as a business transaction. You should never hesitate to seek the money you need to feed, clothe and educate your children.
- This article is provided for informational purposes only. If you need help collecting child support please consult with Valerie Sherman, or a Family Lawyer in your area.