If a non-custodial parent owes you money for child support, both the federal government and your state government are on your side. In most cases, you must register your child support order with your state's child support enforcement agency. Every state has such an agency. Even if you register, you can still use an attorney to help you collect.
You Can Receive Support through Income Withholding
Since the 1990s, federal law has required that most child support orders include income withholding. When your child's other parent receives a paycheck, the employer must subtract the child support and send the money to your state's enforcement agency. The agency then pays you. But exceptions exist. Some parents are self-employed and don't receive paychecks. Parents can also voluntarily waive this requirement.
Your State May Increase Withholding for Past-Due Support
If your child's non-custodial parent falls behind in support payments, some states will increase income withholding to cover the current amount plus some additional money toward the past-due balance. If you registered your order with your state's enforcement agency, this might happen automatically. Otherwise, you might have to file a motion with the court, asking a judge to order this extra collection.
The Government Will Intercept Tax Refunds
When the past-due balance on child support reaches a certain point, the IRS will take the money from the delinquent parent's income tax refund. In order to collect this way, you must be registered with your state's enforcement agency. Your state will send notice to the non-custodial parent first, offering a chance to catch up with past-due payments. If no payment is made, your state will notify the IRS. If your child's other parent filed a joint return with a new spouse, your state may hold the money for six months before giving it to you. Your enforcement agency can take state tax refunds as well.
Child Support Agencies Have Other Options
Your state's child support enforcement agency can place liens against personal property owned by parents who owe past-due support. This prevents them from selling their property without first paying their past-due child support. Agencies do not have to ask the court for permission to do this. Usually, they will not place liens against property needed to earn a living. Agencies can also freeze bank accounts, taking the past-due balance and sending it to the parent who is owed support.
A Family Law Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding collection of past-due child support is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a family law lawyer.