Enforcing Child Support: Legal Remedies for Non-Payment

When a parent does not pay court-ordered child support, there are several legal remedies that can be used to enforce the order. These include contempt of court charges, fines, and jail time. However, these penalties will vary depending on the details of each case and the length of time that the support order is unpaid.

In a majority of states, the court that issued a child support order is allowed to hold the obligor (non-paying) parent in contempt of court. This is usually a last resort, since judges generally would rather keep the obligor out of jail and where he or she can earn the income necessary to pay the child support payments.

The obligor’s employer can be ordered to withhold a portion of the obligor’s paycheck to collect past due child support. This is called immediate wage withholding and often referred to as “wage deduction.”

If the payor owes more than $4 months of back child support, the state may garnish wages, intercept unemployment insurance, suspend a driver’s license, deny a passport, or take any other action that it deems appropriate. It also has the power to send a National Medical Support Notice to an employer requiring that the employer provide health insurance for the non-custodial parent’s dependent children.

This enforcement remedy can be a last-resort measure because it ties directly to the obligor’s income and assets and is therefore more harsh than other enforcement remedies such as credit bureau reporting or passport denial.

In addition, the obligor’s employment could be threatened with termination or other negative consequences if they continue to defy the court’s order. The obligor’s employer may even be sued for wrongful termination and the court can issue a judgment against the employer for damages caused by a defiant obligor.

A few states have laws that require obligors who are in arrears of a large amount of child support to repay the backchild support by paying a lump sum or making a series of monthly payments. This can be a powerful tool that the court can use to encourage the obligor to come up with a solution to their delinquency.

These enforcement remedies are available to both custodial and non-custodial parents, though they often only work when the non-paying parent has not been able to come to an agreement on how to comply with the court order. This is why it is important to seek the help of a family and divorce attorney in Miami in your area when attempting to enforce a court order for child support.

The obligor’s credit score is also frequently affected by these remedies. The obligor’s financial institutions can be required to report a delinquent support payment to the credit bureau and to place a lien on the obligor’s property.

Moreover, in some states, a person’s credit score can be negatively affected by the state’s use of license suspension to enforce child support orders. The obligor’s license may be suspended in order to compel compliance and to avoid the potential for further enforcement remedies.