Are you having issues collecting back child support? There are various methods for collecting past due child support. The first place that many people start is with their state's Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED). Federal law requires that the services of the CSED in each state be made available to anyone who requests them. You can find out more about the process in the "Handbook on Child Support Enforcement" from the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Child Support Enforcement.
The state attorney's office can also help enforce court-ordered child support by bringing suit against the obligated parent. Private attorneys may be used to help collect past due amounts by bringing contempt of court charges and serving wage assignment orders.
There are also private agencies that offer services for collecting back child support. If you do decide to use a private child support collection agency, read all the paperwork very carefully before signing the collection contract.
Below you can find answers to the most common questions asked about collecting back child support:
Mandy's Question: I am owed back support on my children from a previous relationship, but have never received a dime from their father's tax return. Is there paper work I should fill out or do I call IRS?
Brette's Answer: If your child support is being collected through your state child support collection agency, get in touch with them for help in collecting back child support. If it is not, you can petition the court to have it collected in this way. They are responsible for notifying the IRS.
Chris's Question: Where and who gets any back child support. I was 8000 behind and they have taken my tax refund for the last two years, but my ex says he hasn't received it.
Brette's Answer: You need to get in touch with your state child support enforcement agency. They will have records. If your tax refund was taken, it should be applied to your account. If you don't want that to happen again, you need to adjust the amount you're having taken out of your pay.
Rachel's Question: My husband is paying support for 2 children from a previous relationship. He recently became unemployed and I am the only one working to support all of us. I have heard that if we don't pay his child support, the IRS could wipe out our joint bank account to keep paying his arrears. Is this true? Can we get his child support obligation reduced based on his unemployment compensation?
Brette's Answer: He should file for a modification based on the change in employment. The IRS would not take your bank account, but the court could certainly order that those assets be seized. If he fails to pay child support his tax refund can be taken - that's where the IRS comes into play.
Jackie's Question: My son is 20 and my daughter is 18. They both live on their own. My arrears on them is $3,000.00. Can I file bankruptcy on the child support arrears?
Brette's Answer: Child support arrears are not dischargeable in bankruptcy.
Kay's Question: I have been divorced for 5yrs and have not been receiving child support. I finally told my ex that he needs to start paying and he gave me half of the ordered support. Then said he is taking me back to court because the amount he has to pay is unfair. If we do go to court, will he end up going to jail for contempt of court for not paying child support and being in arrears for so long?
Brette's Answer: It is unlikely he would go to jail. That happens in rare cases after many failed attempts at collecting back child support. He can ask for a modification in the amount, but unless something has changed since the order was entered, he won't get it.
Kay's Question: Once a child is emancipated and the non custodial parent is in arrears what is the maximum amount of arrears the non-custodial parent can be ordered to pay?
Brette's Answer: The arrears that is due is whatever child support was due under the order. If the child emancipates, the order has to be changed for child support to no longer be due. Arrears would be due up to the date of emancipation.
Rachel's Question: My father owes us nearly $100,000 in back child support. My brother turns 18 in a couple of months and I will in a couple of years. Will my father still be responsible for the money he owes us even after we turn 18?
Brette's Answer: Your father owes the money to your mother, not to you, and she is the only one who has the right to collect it. He is still responsible for back child support even if you are 18.
Violet's Question: Can I get into legal trouble for forgiving back child support owed to me as a condition from the non-custodial parent to allow my husband to adopt my son?
Brette's Answer: No, it's up to you whether you wish to enforce the rights the court has given you.
Jasmine's Question: If a child becomes emancipated (turns 18) and child support is owed in that child's case, is that child able to forgive all or some of the back child support that collected?
Brette's Answer: No. The child has no legal standing in that lawsuit and is not a party to it. Child support is owed by one parent to another.
Travis' Question: I just turned 18 and my mom has kicked me out of the house. The courts have ordered my dad to pay the back owed child support. Am I entitled to any of it since I'm not living with my mom anymore?
Brette's Answer: Sorry, no. Only the parent can collect child support. Retroactive child support is for the past - when you were living at home and being supported by your parents.
Alison's Question: My ex-husband owes child support arrears in the amount of 111,000.00 Right now his wages are being garnished each month. If something happens to me, are my adult children entitled to the money he owes me and how do I make sure they would get it?
Brette's Answer: The money would be owed to your estate and the administrator or executor of that estate could pursue collection. The money would be distributed to the beneficiaries of your will or your heirs as indicated under your state intestate statute.
Gabriella's Question: If he dies and has no income nor estate, is the back child support forgiven?
Brette's Answer: It's not forgiven, but that's essentially the end of it. There's nowhere to get the money from.
Gail's Question: My child is now of age and my ex has been in arrears for a very long time. He is now the recipient of a large settlement and has the ability to pay most of what is owed. The attorney wants to ask me to settle for half the amount. Otherwise, my ex intends to ask the judge to put the money directly into our child's account. Is this legal? I am still supporting our child, and intend to as long as needed.
Brette's Answer: Just because he asks the judge to do it does not mean the judge will. Child support is to be used by the parent to pay the child's expenses. Even if the money were placed in your child's account, your child could certainly gift that money to you.
Lisa's Question: We separated four years ago (after 20 years of marriage) and now I'm divorcing him. He's in federal prison with four years left to go and owes me over $13000 in back child support. He also has numerous judgments against him. We own a house and he said he will quit claim the house to me only if I forgive the back child support and don't collect while he's in jail. In return, when he gets out he will file bankruptcy. I'm unsure of what to do.
Brette's Answer: Get a lawyer. Don't sign away anything to someone who is in jail, has no income stream, and can't possibly pay you back child support. It's not his decision if you get the house. Of course a judge will give you the house.
Wilma's Question: My ex vowed he would never pay a dime of child support and he never did for over 30 years. I sued his estate after his death and received a lump sum distribution from his estate for the back child support. Is this back child support taxable as income?
Brette's Answer: No. Child support is not taxable income.
Lisa's Question: My children's father is requesting a retroactive modification. In Indiana it goes back to the date he filed the petition. If the judge rules in favor of him how can they take that money from the children? He currently owes me 8K in back support.
Brette's Answer: You wouldn't pay it back. It should be deducted from what he owes. You can file for violation and enforcement for the arrears.
Stacey's Question: Last year I was in the process of getting child support. My daughter’s father came into her life two years ago and now he’s filing for custody. Can I still get arrearage from the last 16 years even if he gets custody of her?
Brette's Answer: If support was never ordered, you can't get an arrearage.
Erin's Question: My ex is pushing to get custody changed. Does it modify the support order if he does get custody, and will he still owe the back child support?
Brette's Answer: He owes the back child support no matter what. If he gets custody, he can get the current order changed so he is owed support. » Return to top of Collecting Back Child Support