by Geraldine Jensen
Trouble Shooting Your Child Support Case
1. Do you have a legal child support order from a court or an administrative hearing at a government child support agency?
Yes go to # 2 for next step,
If you were married when the children were born, you need to establish a child support order as part of a divorce or separation. You can obtain help to establish an order at the state government child support agencies. See How to Collect Child Support, 3rd Edition, Getting a Support Order
If you were not married when the child( ren) were born, See How to Collect Child Support, 3rd Edition, Establishing Paternity
2. What is the amount of your support order? _______
How much is owed in back support?______
If you do not know, if payments were ordered to be made through a government agency or Clerk of Courts, contact them and ask for a copy of your payment records.
Ways to Enforce - Collect Payments
3. Do you know where the nonpaying parent works?
Do they receive a regular paycheck?
No, See How to Collect Child Support, 3rd Edition, Finding Nonpaying Parents
Yes: Name, address and phone number of employer: _____________
Ask the government child support agency to call employer to verify employment, and to initiate income-withholding order (payroll deduction)for current support and back support payments.
Or process your own income-withholding notice. Income-withholding form see See How to Collect Child Support, 3rd Edition, See How to Collect Child Support, 3rd Edition, Ways to Collect Support Without Going to Court
4. Self employed Nonpaying Parent?
Possible solutions include: Contempt of Court or criminal
non-support charges, place the company in receivership, till- tap of a company cash register. See How to Collect Child Support, 3rd Edition, Court Enforcement: Civil and Criminal Enforcement
5. For help with the following enforcement issues see How to Collect Child Support, 3rd Edition, Effective Enforcement Methods:
Get the IRS to Help Collect Payments. IRS Full Collection Service if arrears are more than $750,(collects child support same way back taxes are collected- case referred from state government
child support agency to IRS; attach federal and state income tax refunds.
Attach nonpaying parent assets: bank accounts,rental Income, royalties, stocks, bonds? IRA's,Worker's Compensation?
Nonpaying parent unemployed? Initiate attachment of unemployment
compensation, and/or obtain an order for the non-payor to seek work or be part of job training program
Nonpaying parent receives Veterans benefits? Initiate voluntary allotment and a
contempt of court action if need to collect full payments and back support
Nonpaying parent receives Social Security Benefits? Initiate attachment of Social
Security Disability checks, sign up for your child to receive dependent benefits. If Benefit is SSI, Social Security Supplemental, it is not attachable for child support and the child does not receive a dependents check.
Nonpaying parent receives military retirement? Initiate attachment of retirement
Nonpaying parent in Military? Initiate involuntary
allotment; this is just like a wage attachment.
Nonpaying parent receives retirement benefits? Initiate income-withholding to attach retirement
Nonpaying parent receives Unemployment compensation? notify state government child support agency to attachment benefits for child support payments.
Nonpaying parent receives bonuses and commissions? Initiate attachment with income-withholding order
Nonpaying parent pays only when taken to court? Ask court to
automatically review the case every 60 days
Nonpaying parent has placed all assets in someone else's name? Find out if you case qualifies for collection under fraudulent conveyance laws.
6. Visitation/ Access
To obtain visitation with your child, you must have a court order from a divorce, dissolution, paternity decree, or other
type of order.
A specific timetable is the best type of court order to have if you are encountering problems obtaining visitation, because it
specifically lists when you have the rights to visit the child.
If you do not have a specific visitation court order and you are being denied visitation, you can change
(modify) your order so that it lists your specific rights. This can be done by filing a motion with the court in the county where
the original order was issued or in the county where the child lives. If you have an interstate case, take action in the state where the child lives.
To change a visitation order, you can file the papers yourself. You can contact the courts for assistance.
Where there are severe problems, including a requirement for an itinerary in the order for where the child will be during
visitation can alleviate some problems. If you already have a specific schedule outlined in your visitation order and you are
being denied visitation, you can file contempt charges against the non-compliant parent. You will have to prove that the
parent willfully stopped you from visiting the child.
To Prove that you have been repeatedly denied visitation through witnesses (best if these are not relatives: a clergyman or
community social worker is best), through written evidence that you have attempted to visit the child.
lf vou have not seen the child in a long time, show the court that you are willing to gradually re-establish your
relationship with the child.. Re~establishing a relationship can take time and energy, but it is well worth the trouble.
7. If you received welfare benefits, part of the back child support due may be owed to the state:
The state cannot take more than the amount they gave you in cash benefits ( medicaid, food stamps, etc . Do not count)) or
the amount of the child support that went unpaid while you were on assistance, whichever is less
You were on assistance before 1998 in some states or 2000 in other states (Ask your state if they are a plan A state =
1998 or a plan B state= 2000) .
If on welfare, before the date listed above, the state can then legally confiscate some of the arrearage you were owed
when you went on welfare so that they can recoup the amount of welfare cash benefits you were given - this is called pre-assistance arrearage.
Ask for an audit if you are not sure the state has calculated the amount owed to the state to pay back welfare correctly
and to make sure they are not taking money they are not entitled to take.
Since 2000, in all states, any money collected to pay back support goes to pay back support
a. owed to the family first ( from before you went on welfare and since you got off welfare)
b. before it goes to pay back support owed to the state to pay back welfare rom the time period you were on
Current support due each month goes to the family once you get off welfare
Exception to all rules : Money collected form IRS offset (attachment of federal income tax refunds) goes to pay off
amount owed to the state to pay back welfare first. We are trying to change- Write your U.S. Representative and
Senators and ask them to give this money to families first in all cases.
Parents have right to ask for an administrative hearing (grievance hearing) to resolve any issues with the state
keeping incorrect records, taking the wrong amount to pay back welfare, etc . Contact the government child
support agency to get directions about how to file for a hearing.
About the Author -- Geraldine Jensen
Her rise from welfare mom to becoming the leading advocate for child support enforcement was the subject of an ABC made-for-TV movie, Abandoned and Deceived. Founder of ACES, Association for Children for Enforcement of Support the largest child support organization in the U.S. Author of Child Support: A Complete Reference and member of U.S. Commission of Interstate Child Support. she has lectured at universities across the U.S. and provided expert testimony to Congress numerous times.