Collecting Child Support - Options For Enforcement


In an ideal world, collecting child support would be a hassle-free process. However, in the real world, child support enforcement is often needed. It's a good idea to register with the state child support enforcement agency at the time of your divorce. Wage assignments are also an effective method of collecting current and delinquent child support

Now to answer some common questions about making sure you receive your child support payments:

Do we have to set the support payments up through the state?

Bianca's Question: Our divorce is recently final and I'm the custodial parent. We are on incredibly good terms. I was wondering if we can continue to handle our child support privately. He has agreed to the ordered amount and has been paying it and I have no worries about this. Do we have to open an account with the clerk's office for future child support? I would rather not and thus save him the docket fees charged yearly.

Brette: You'll need to check with your attorney to determine if your state requires you to set it up through the state. The problem with handling child support privately is that it can be much more difficult to collect should there ever be a payment issue.

Is there a way to ensure he pays support every month?

Lupita's Question: I have had to file three show-cause motions because my ex doesn't pay support. What can I do to make him pay up on time and avoid this torture every month?

Brette's Answer: Failure to comply is a violation of a court order. You go back to court and ask the judge to enforce the order. You should ask that child support be paid through your state enforcement agency - if there is a problem with payment, they handle that, which will save you this entire headache.

Will the state help in collecting child support?

Mary Ann's Question: My ex-husband owes me child support. My mother in law has passed away and left him her house. Will the state step in and make him pay the money he owes the children now that he has some resources?

Brette Answers: If the child support payments are being collected through the state enforcement agency, they will handle it. If not, you need to file enforcement proceedings to get started collecting child support.

How often will I receive support payments through CSE?

Deana's Question: How often am I supposed to be receiving child support payments thru my local collections unit? My ex has had monies garnished.

Brette's Answer: Call them and find out what's going on with your account.

Will I get less child support if it's collected through the state?

Debra Asks: My ex withholds child support payments as punishment. He laughs and says there is nothing I can do because he holds out just under a month. We agreed on $250.00 a week to be paid each Friday. He threatens that if I file to have him pay through the courts he will only have to pay $40.00 a week. I am sick of being bullied and controlled by him. I hoping for the day that I will be able to go back to work and not depend on him, but until then what choices do I have?

Brette Answers: You can ask to have child support collected and paid through your state child support agency. It will not reduce the amount you are paid at all and it will save you a lot of headache.

How can I have support payments taken out of his check?

Louise: My soon-to-be ex has been court ordered to pay $125.00 per week for our son, but only pays what he chooses. How do I get DHS to take the support out of his check?

Brette's Answer: The court has to order that the payments be garnished. You can ask for this.

Does he owe the remainder if the withholding order started on the 4th?

Amanda's Question: My ex was ordered to pay child support on the first of the month and a withholding order was issued to collect the payment. The order wasn't served on his employer until the 4th of January, so the payment was less than what the support order stated. He claims he isn't responsible for remainder of the first month because the withholding order has come now into play. Is he off the hook for the rest of the January's support because the orders weren't served to the employer until the 4th? 

Brette's Answer: He owes it. The withholding order just says how it is to be collected. The amount is due based on the child support order.

Can support be deducted from the money he gets from school?

Niccole's Question: If the father is returning to school, is there a way that child support can come out the money that he gets from school? Also is there any way of collecting child support if he is getting paid under the table?

Brette's Answer: If he has a job at the school that pays him, then it would be eligible for child support. A scholarship would not be. A job that pays under the table counts towards child support, but you need to get proof he is being paid (witnesses, bank receipts, etc.).

Can his settlement be used to pay the child support?

Kayla's Question: I am getting child support for my 6 year old daughter. We have a court order, but he pays it on an irregular basis and has built up over $7000 in back support. There is an insurance settlement they are supposed to be taking money from. Will it make a difference in the amount of child support? Because I went through the state, am I still able to get the $7000 he owes us?

Brette's Answer: You can request a modification to take into account changes in his income. Depending on state law, an insurance settlement may not be included in that. If the state is collecting child support for you, they should be handling enforcement. Contact your state child support collection agency to ask about the arrears.

What if he never started paying support like ordered?

Levetta's Question: It has been a year since I got divorced. Child support was supposed to start 2 months after the divorce, but I haven't received anything. I don't know who to contact about this. What should I do to get the payments started?

Brette's Answer: It depends on how the payments were to be made. If they were going to come directly from him to you, then you need to go back to the court that created the original order and file the papers for a violation or to enforce the order. If the support was to be sent to your state agency for child support collection and the agency was to pay you, you'll need to get in touch with the agency.

What are my options if my ex stops paying support?

Tami's Question: My ex started his own business over a year ago, and has since stopped paying child support on a regular basis. What are my options for collecting child support that wasn't paid as well as insuring it gets paid in the future?

Brette's Answer: What you need to do is work on enforcement. You can file a petition for a violation in your state court that handles child support. Bring a copy of your child support order with you. You should consider having your state child support office handle collecting child support and future enforcement.

Will he get in trouble for not paying child support if I don't enforce it?

Emily's Question: If my ex-husband does not pay child support and I do not go to court to enforce it, will he still get in trouble or can we work it out between ourselves?

Brette's Answer: You can always withdraw your complaint. However if the state child support agency is involved it is another story.

Can I enforce the support orders if the state isn't doing it?

Nancy Asks: We've been separated for almost 3 years and he's court ordered to pay child support. He pays what and when he chooses and the State refuse to help in collecting child support. Is there a way I can get this to court myself?

Brette's Answer: File papers for violation or enforcement of child support. You can get the forms from your local family court or on their web site.

Will an informal support agreement be enforced by the court?

Allison's Question: I was divorced in California 4 years ago. When that order was filed it stated that support and visitation would be agreed upon between us. I got him to sign a document stating he would pay a certain amount a month and visitation would be this and that. This document was notarized. He is now behind in payments...will this hold up in court?

Brette's Answer: An agreement made outside of court is not enforceable in court at all. If you wanted child support in an enforceable way, you needed a court order.

Can I take my ex to small claims court to get the child support?

Barbara's Question: My ex and I have equal joint custody. A little over a year ago, one of my sons came to live with me full time because he was kicked out of his father's house. Even though there was no official change of custody, can I take my ex to small claims court to get the child support he should have paid me for all that time? The Child Support Agency said that they could not enforce support unless I hired a lawyer and had the custody changed.

Brette's Answer: Child support is enforceable only in the court that ordered it. You can't go to small claims for collecting child support. You can go to family court and modify your child support and custody orders to reflect the current situation and ask for retroactive child support for that time.

Can he stop paying support if he moved to another state?

Heather's Question: In our original court papers, my ex got visitation every Wednesday and every other weekend. He has now moved to another state to be with his girlfriend and has stopped paying the court ordered support. What should I do and how can I go about collecting child support again?

Brette's Answer: As far as the child support goes, he has to pay you that whether he exercises his visitation or not, so I would recommend you talk to an attorney about the arrears and getting him to start paying. Good luck!

Can I stop visitation if he doesn't pay his child support?

Laura's Question: My son is eight years old, and his father has only paid support a total of 6 times in the six years since we split. After I learned that there is an active warrant for his arrest, I stopped visitation. He now claims to be filing contempt of court on me. Am I in the wrong?

Brette's Answer: Visitation and child support are two separate issues. If he isn't paying, file papers with the court for enforcement/violation. You cannot withhold visitation because he hasn't paid. Withholding visitation is custodial interference. If there is an arrest warrant out, you can arrange to have him arrested at the court appearance. » Return to Collecting Child Support Questions

Brette Sember - Legal Expert