Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQ”)
on Collection Remedies
Patrick McGraw Offers Answers on Collection Remedies in Child Support
Q: What Efforts Can Be Taken to Collect Child Support From the Parent Who Does Not Pay?
A: When a parent fails to provide support for a child, the parents need to work together to make arrangements for mutual sharing of the child. For all parties concerned, the best solution is often found when parents work together. When one parent does not cooperate in sharing the responsibility for child support, the controversy goes to court. The first step is to get an order for the payment of child support. If the obligor parent fails to follow the court order, further actions can follow.
The most common “tool” used to collect child support payments that are not made, is through a wage assignment order. A wage assignment order is an order of the court, directing the employer to deduct the child support payment from the earnings of an employee-obligor parent. Assignment orders can become obtained through a simple court procedure. Once obtained, the wage assignment order must serve upon the employer of the obligor parent before it becomes effective.
When the obligor parent fails to make support payments, the total amount of the “arrearage” can be set as a judgment for further enforcement proceedings. Interest on the arrearage is often included as part of the judgment. The expense of an enforcement action to collect a judgment justifies as the amount due increases. When the obligor parent has income or property, there is financial incentive to pursue enforcement efforts.
Attachment or Levy
Collection of child support can go through other procedures. For example, if the obligor has money in a bank, an attachment or levy can become executed. When executing a levy or attachment, care must happen since some property is exempt. In a levy or attachment proceeding, the court can have the property of the obligor parent “seized” or taken away and given to the oblige parent.
Although an obligor parent may challenge the levy or attachment in court, it can be very effective in obtaining payment. Strict adherence to the established rules for levy and attachment is required. This is to protect an oblige parent from an allegation theft of property.
Q: What is the Parent Locator Service?
A: The Federal Parent Locator Service or FPLS obtains and transmits information about the location of any absent parent. The service is an arm of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. The FPLS also can use connection with the enforcement of child custody, visitation, and parental kidnapping. There are also state parent locator services in some states.
The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 expanded the FPLS’s services to include a National Directory of New Hires and a Federal Case Registry of Support Orders. FPLS will match data between the New Hire and Case Registry every two days and report matches to states within two days.
Q: What Other Collection Remedies are Available?
A: The following are other alternative courses of action:
Many states have empowered local government agencies to collect child support for an oblige parent. Under law, the local agency may take action to collect outstanding child support arrearage. Resources are available to local agencies to assist in collecting court ordered child support.
Tax Refund Intercepts
Local agencies have the authority to follow a procedure to “intercept” federal or state tax refunds. Although local child support enforcement agencies can be slow, their help should become helpful and requested.
Real Estate Liens
A “judgment lien” based on child support debt can become recorded. When a lien becomes recorded, the real property becomes security for the payment of the judgment. A judgment lien for child support is then paid from the proceeds of the sale. A judgment lien against real property should begin. This will happen whenever an obligor parent owns real property that has an equity value.
Civil Contempt of Court
A more complex proceeding is an action for contempt. Since payment of child support is a direct order by a court to pay, failure to pay will result in contempt of a court order. In this proceeding, the oblige parent must prove to the court that the obligor parent had the income from which support could have paid. Although a contempt proceeding is complex, it is certain to gain the attention of the obligor parent.
Since collection of child support can be difficult, professional help is often needed. Child support judgments can reach many thousands of dollars a year.