Getting the Government to Help Collect Your Support
You have a child. That child’s other parent (usually the father – but definitely not always) won’t pay child support. You can’t afford to pay your rent and grocery bill. How on Earth can you afford to hire a lawyer to go to court and get your child support order enforced?
This is such a rampant problem in the United States that every state has established a government office for child support enforcement. So, if you’re not getting child support payments, contact your state’s child support enforcement (CSE) office immediately. Links to the child support enforcement offices in all 50 states can be found on our Family Law Public Departments and Services page.
If you’ve never been to court and received a child support order before (and you’re not married to the father of your child), the CSE lawyers will represent you and your child in obtaining a judgment of paternity and an order of child support. You will need to provide the CSE office with as much information about your child’s father as possible so that they can locate him and serve him with the court papers. Unless he acknowledges paternity, a DNA test will be necessary. In addition to child support, CSE will seek an order for health insurance coverage for your child as well.
If you have a child support order in place (from a divorce or a previous paternity case) but no payments are being made, the CSE office will assist you in collecting the money due to you. There are several ways this can occur. If you or the CSE office know where your child’s father works, CSE will have a withholding order issued which will require your ex’s employer to withhold funds from his paycheck, instead paying that money to the state which will, in turn, pay it to you. In some states, CSE will also attempt to get unpaid alimonycollected as well (but they will not take cases that are solely alimony cases – without child support).
CSE can also intercept state or federal income tax refunds that might be paid to your child’s father if he is behind on his child support obligation. In some states, CSE will make efforts to have a delinquent parent’s driver’s license, hunting/fishing license or business license suspended until he or she addresses the unpaid support issue.
The final option is to file a criminal suit for non-payment or a charge of civil contempt of court. In either type of case, the deadbeat parent is usually given the option of paying child support in lieu of going to jail.
In most states, the CSE office will get involved any time a single mother applies for welfare benefits. It is the government’s viewpoint that it should not have to pay to help support a family if the father (or mother) is able to do so. In those cases, oftentimes, any child support collected will first go to reimburse the state for any welfare benefits paid out to the children (so that there is no “double dip” per se). If welfare benefits are not involved, there may be an annual collection or application fee due to the CSE office – but it’s usually about $25.
CSE cases can be periodically reviewed for necessary modifications (increases or decreases) to the support amount. And they can handle child support collections even if the obligated parent lives outside the state.
You may also be interested in this book about rights regarding child support, custody and visitation.