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There are a variety of different enforcement tools that are available to you in enforcing your court order for child support. You can use these tools by hiring a private attorney to help you, filing the appropriate paperwork with the court on your own, or applying for assistance through your local child support enforcement office. All states have a child support enforcement agency where you can get help with child support enforcement for free, or by paying a small fee.
One of the most common ways for enforcing child support is to have the payments directly garnished from the other parent's paycheck. The court, or, in some states, your local child support enforcement agency, can issue a garnishment or income withholding order to the other parent's employer so that you receive your payments according to the terms of your court order. Even if you don't know where the other parent works, your local child support enforcement agency often will have access to employment information from different sources, which will help you get a garnishment order.
There are other administrative actions that your local child support enforcement agency can take to get your child support payments. The agency can intercept state and federal income tax refunds, seize lottery and casino winnings, attach bank accounts, place liens on real estate and vehicles, suspend driver's licenses, professional licenses, such as a real estate or teaching license, and recreational licenses, such as a fishing license.
If taking administrative actions still doesn't get your child support payments coming in, you can also turn to the court that issued your child support order for help. In most states, you can file a civil contempt citation against the other parent for failure to pay child support, which asks the court to enforce its child support order, and can result in incarceration or other sanctions against that parent. Your attorney or child support enforcement agency can file the necessary paperwork for a civil contempt citation, but in many states, you can file this paperwork on your own by filling out a few simple forms.
In situations where the amount of back child support, or support arrearages, is very high, your local prosecutor or state's attorney's office may even be able to file criminal charges against the other parent for non-payment, which may result in probation, home detention, or incarceration. In many states, criminal non-support can be a felony, which can result in a lengthy period of incarceration.
Even if the other parent lives out of state, you can still enforce your child support order. Every state has enacted some version of the Uniform Interstate Support Enforcement Act ("UIFSA"), which allows state child support enforcement agencies to work cooperatively with one another in enforcing other states' child support orders. For example, if Mary lives in Illinois, John is ordered to pay her child support, but John has now moved to Indiana, then the Illinois child support enforcement agency can file a UIFSA action that asks Indiana to enforce the Illinois child support order.
In summary, you have many options for enforcing your child support order. However, it is up to you to take the first step and seek help in collecting child support for your child. Contact an attorney for more information about these options, and others, which may be available to help you enforce your child support order.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified child support lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local child support attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.