Collecting Unpaid Child Support

If you are a parent who is struggling to collect child support, there are several different ways to go about getting the money you are owed. To start, the parent or custodian that is owed the child support should try getting the money voluntarily. Some of the ways to get a parent to voluntarily send child support include:

  • Regular monthly billings – Sometimes, all it takes to get a person to pay child support is a monthly bill. After all, it works for the gas and electric companies.
  • Voluntary wage assignments – This is the most common way that child support is collected in the U.S. In fact, more than one third of all payments are made this way. The way it works is simple: the person who is paying the child support has the money automatically deducted from his or her paycheck. The payments are guaranteed to get to the child on a regular basis, and it's relatively easy to set up.
  • Telephone reminders – Much like regular monthly billings, telephone reminders can help keep the payments in the front of the parent's minds.

When these methods have been exhausted and the parent is still refusing to pay the child support, it may be time to step things up a bit. The next line of recourse is through civil courts. It is important to note that the particulars regarding these options vary by state, so be sure to check with your attorney. Some of the ways a civil court can go about collecting the money owed is:

  • Holding the parent in contempt of court – Usually, three things need to happen before a parent can be held in contempt of court. First, there needs to be a court order in place that mandates that the parent has to pay child support, and he or she must know about it. Second, it has to be proven that the parent had the ability to pay the money that was due. Finally, after the first two points have been established, it has to be shown that the parent knowingly refused to pay in compliance with the judge's order. Parents being held in contempt of court can be jailed for months at a time, which can be more than enough of an incentive to get a person to pay what is owed.
  • Income Withholding – Is similar to a voluntary wage assignment, but are court ordered instead of voluntary. In most states, the paying parent is required to notify the court immediately following a change of employment or address.
  • License Suspension – If a parent is significantly delinquent in his or her child support payments, both professional and driver's licenses can be suspended in almost all states.
  • Tax Intercept – Depending on the state that you live in, there are programs that you can apply for that will intercept any lottery winnings or tax refunds set to be paid to the parent. There are certain arrearage requirements for most of these programs, most of which start at $100.

When all of the voluntary and civil collection avenues have been tried and the parent is still refusing to pay his or her fair share of child support costs, criminal charges may be appropriate. Depending on the amount that is due, felony charges may be brought against the offending parent. This can result in years of jail time, as well as tens of thousands of dollars in fines. Additionally, the matter could be referred to the United States Attorney, who may bring federal criminal charges.

Considering Divorce?

Talk to a Divorce attorney.

We've helped 85 clients find attorneys today.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you

Talk to a Lawyer

Need a lawyer? Start here.

How it Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you