Methods of Enforcing Child Support Orders
With the poor economy and many people out of work, debts and bills often go unpaid simply because there is not enough money to make ends meet. Unfortunately, child support payments often fall into this category of neglected obligations. In other cases, a parent may ignore his or her responsibility to pay child support out of anger toward an ex-spouse, begrudging money even though it is for the care of the child.
Regardless of the reason child support has not been paid, once a court establishes the order requiring a non-custodial parent to make payments to a custodial parent, nothing short of a court-approved modification or extreme circumstances can relieve the obligation. Late payments, underpayments, and, of course, zero payments, all constitute failure to follow the order.
When this happens the state, through its Child Support Enforcement Division, provides methods to collect the unpaid support amounts, including:
- Income Withholding – Child support payments may be taken directly from paychecks, unemployment checks, workers’ compensation checks, and retirement checks.
- Civil Contempt – If a parent is 30 days late in support payments, the Child Support Enforcement Division can ask a judge to find him or her in contempt, which could mean jail time.
- Failure to Appear – When a parent does not attend a child support hearing, a judge may order arrest based on failure to appear.
- Income Tax Refund Intercept – Especially appropriate this time of year, the state can report the parent to the IRS if he or she owes back support, so that support is deducted from his or her tax refund.
- Credit Bureau Reporting – When a person owes at least $1,000 in back child support, his or her name can be reported to the credit bureaus, making it difficult to borrow money.
- Liens – Also when a person owes at least $1,000 in back child support, liens can be placed on real and personal property, which allow debts to be collected when the property is sold or refinanced.
- Financial Institution Data Match – When a person owes at least $500 in back child support, he or she is subject to a data match system that identifies accounts belonging to people are not paying child support, so that liens and levies may be placed on their funds.
In addition to these methods of enforcement, the state may also attempt garnishments, federal prosecution, criminal non-support, and IRS full collection. The state may also suspend or revoke personal and/or professional licenses, including a person’s driver’s license.
Experienced Legal Counsel for Alabama Families
If you seek to enforce a child support order in Alabama, or if you have questions about child support and other issues accompanying divorce, contact Lana Hawkins, at The Hawkins Law Firm for sound legal advice from an experienced family law attorney.