What Are My Legal Options to Collect Unpaid Child Support?

When a former spouse fails to pay child support, you could go through tremendous hardship either from the lack of income or the emotional toll of trying to track down the funds. However, you do have legal rights in these cases and can take action to collect unpaid child support. Keep reading to learn more.

Child Support Arrears

Child support arrears is the legal term for unpaid or past due child support. When the court orders child support, the parent responsible for paying it must follow the rules and pay the exact amount ordered on time. Delinquency or violations of the divorce settlement terms could be grounds for legal action including taking the matter before the court.

Retroactive Child Support

While arrears are the legal term for unpaid child support, the court may also order retroactive child support for a period before the original child support order was issued. There may be a statute of limitations for how much retroactive support can be ordered.

A judge may order retroactive child support in cases where:

  • It took a long period of time for the parent’s request for child support to be processed through court
  • An unmarried mother was not able to provide proof of legal paternity
  • The judge increased the amount of support in a previous order and raises the amount retroactively

How To Collect Unpaid Child Support

If your ex-spouse owes child support, you have legal rights. Depending on the circumstances in your case, different procedures may apply. Typically, the initial step in these cases is to find the other parent if they are missing. It may also be necessary to establish parentage if there are questions about paternity.

In general, federal laws including the Child Support Enforcement Act of 1984 give district and state attorneys general authority to collect back child support and penalize delinquent parents.

The unpaid child support can be collected via:

  • Wage garnishment
  • A lien on homes or properties
  • Freezing bank accounts
  • Suspension of professional licenses
  • Reporting the individual to credit agencies to damage their credit score
  • A contempt of court order which could result in jail time

If the parent is in another state or country, it is important to note that child support agencies and courts have the power to enforce child support orders across sate lines and there are some federal penalties for parents who attempt to flee from their court ordered responsibilities. Fines and even a federal prison sentence may apply to extreme cases.

However, if the non-custodial parent cannot pay, they cannot legally be jailed for not having funds to pay for child support. There may be grounds to modify the order to make payments more affordable and to reflect the parent’s financial situation.

You May Have a Case

If your ex-spouse is delinquent on their child support payments, you may have grounds to approach the court about taking action to collect back payments. However, it is crucial that you enlist the help of a qualified attorney.

Contact Arnel Law Firm if you believe you have a case.