Child Support: What You Need to Know When Your Child's Parent Fails to Pay

Despite the legal agreement that co-parents may have made or the courts may have ordered there are still instances when one parent makes excuses for why they are not paying child support. Regardless of their reasons, it's a legal obligation that they are required to adhere to.

Bankruptcy Proof

Even if the parent files for bankruptcy, child support is not dischargeable and is one of the first priority debts. This means that child support is still an ongoing obligation even if the Bankruptcy Court has issued a stay of enforcement from any other creditors secured or otherwise. This also means that once the parent has received a discharge from the Bankruptcy Court any unpaid child support continues to remain an obligation regardless of any debtors, secured or otherwise.

Enforcement Tools

If the other parent refuses to pay child support, the Courts can garnish their wages, levy on bank accounts, seize property for sale, and in some circumstances intercept tax refunds, suspend their occupational license or driver's license, and refuse to issue them a passport, and in the ultimate circumstance find the parent in contempt and pose jail time. Contempt is not always the best solution to get a bad parent in-line. Both the Court and the parent should consider the impact of jail time on the parent's ability to pay the child support. In most states, including California, interest is added to the amount of the unpaid child support, so their child support obligation will grow larger if the support obligor does not pay on time.

Out-of-State Parents

Even if your ex-spouse lives in another state there are alternatives you can do to secure payment for child support. With the assistance of the Department of Child Support Services, you can ask the child support order to be forwarded to the state where the child's parent lives and ask the court in that state to enforce it. You can also forward an Income Withholding Order (IWO) to their employer to ask them to withhold child support amounts from their check. For the most egregious child support violators, The Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act of 1998 presently makes it a federal felony for those egregious violators who willfully refuse to pay child support.

Out of Work - Out of Luck?

Most states do not allow for child support orders to be retroactively changed, so even if your ex-spouse were to lose their job that would not be an excuse for them to stop paying the child support order in place. Even though the parent's income may have been substantially reduced for months that parent will most likely be ordered to pay the entire amount of the child support order in place at the time. However, the parent may ask the court for a reduction in future payments.

If you are experiencing issues with your former partner's payments, an attorney can help guide you through your options for dealing with these legal troubles. There are also state agencies that can help with child support enforcement at no cost. It should be noted that getting the parent to pay the appropriate child support could be a costly and time-consuming process; however your preparation and documentation management can help reduce the overall impact of having to enforce child support.

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