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Alternative Methods of Child Support Enforcement

UPDATED: February 8, 2020

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There are a few methods to enforcing child support payment collection when a parent refuses to pay. The three main methods are wage assignments, enforcement action and an attachment or levy. However, if these fail to work, there are alternatives. The following are other alternative courses of action:

Government: Many states have empowered local government agencies (such as the Office of District Attorney) to collect child support for an obligee parent. Under law, the local agency may take action to collect outstanding child support arrearage. Resources, such as parent locator services, and a staff of attorneys/clerks, 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 which otherwise would be paid to the obligor parent. Also, local agencies can provide information about child support arrearage to consumer credit reporting agencies who are then required include such information in the agency's report. Although local child support enforcement agencies can be slow, because of the additional resources available to them, their assistance should be requested as part of the overall effort to collect a child support arrearage.

Real estate liens: A judgment lien based on child support arrearage can be recorded against real estate owned by the obligor parent in the county in which the property is located. When such a lien is 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 when the property is sold. A judgment lien against real property should be established whenever an obligor parent owns real property that has an equity value (that is, the amount of all outstanding liens, including mortgages, is less than the fair market value of the property).

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 is treated as a contempt of a court order. In this proceeding, which is quasi-criminal in nature, the obligee parent must prove to the court that the obligor parent had the income from which support could have been paid. Although a contempt proceeding is complex, it's certain to gain the attention of the obligor parent.

Since collection of child support can be difficult, professional assistance is often needed. Child support judgments can easily reach many thousands of dollars a year, and the cost of professional assistance is justified, since those who are familiar with collection procedures often obtain favorable results.

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