Child Support Enforcement Agencies
What is “Child Support Enforcement”?
“Child Support Enforcement” usually refers to state agencies which assist custodial parents who are having difficulty collecting child support from the other parent. According to the Social Security Act, every state is required to provide and maintain a child support enforcement agency. State child support agencies may go by different names, such as the Division of Child Support Services & Enforcement.
In some jurisdictions, the paying parent is required to submit child support payments to the state child support agency. The agency then records the payment and deducts any amounts that the custodial parent may owe to the government. The remainder is then distributed to the custodial parent.
Child support enforcement agencies can also be operated privately. Private child support enforcement groups often use aggressive tactics to collect child support payments, such as threatening to place a lien on the paying parent’s property. These private organizations operate at a fee, sometimes up to 40% of any child support that is collected.
What Specific Types of Services do Child Support Enforcement Agencies Provide?
Every state has different standards regulating the activities of child support enforcement agencies. However, all state child support enforcement agencies must follow federal guidelines. Thus, each child support enforcement agency will typically perform the following functions:
- Collecting child support payments on behalf of the custodial parent
- Establishing paternity if necessary
- Locating non-custodial (paying) parent who owe payments, and locating their property if necessary
- Obtaining court orders for child support payment
- Making sure that child support court orders are complied with
- Obtaining orders for health insurance coverage for the child
- Monitoring monthly support payments
State child support enforcement agencies can also access Federal databases which maintain records of all child support court orders. These can be accessed on behalf of the custodial parent in the event of a dispute.
What are the Consequences of Not Paying Child Support?
The consequences of not paying child support can often be quite severe. These may include:
- Criminal Warrant: A criminal arrest warrant my be issued if the parent owes great amounts of unpaid support. Criminal non-payment can result in fines, and/or up to a year in jail
- Civil Warrant: These are issued if a parent fails to comply with a court order to pay child support. The custodial parent must usually file a “contempt of court” complaint. This can also result in a fine and/or a short jail sentence
- Lawsuit: The non-paying parent may also face a private lawsuit, especially if the custodial parent can prove that they suffered measurable losses due to the failure to pay support. Information provided by a child support enforcement agency can sometimes be used as evidence in court
Failure to pay child support can also result in other consequences besides legal actions. These can include:
- Suspension or revocation of driver’s license
- Loss of government benefits such as tax refunds
- Becoming ineligible for a boating or hunting license
- Garnishment, which means taking money out of the non-paying parent’s paycheck, or from their unemployment/worker’s compensation benefits
Therefore, if you are owed child support payments there may be a number of remedies available to you, which a child support enforcement agency can assist you in obtaining.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Working with a Child Support Enforcement Agency?
If you are experiencing difficulty in obtaining child support payments, you may wish to contact a family law attorney for help. While child support enforcement agencies can be very helpful, they often require you to work back and forth with the court or with a judge. An experienced lawyer can assist you with important legal aspects, such as filing a contempt order or filing for a private lawsuit.
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Last Modified: 07-13-2011 11:47 AM PDT
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