Unless parental rights have been terminated, all parents are legally responsible for financially supporting their children, even after a marriage ends. When a family court orders child support as part of a paternity action or divorce, the obligor (paying parent) is expected to stay current with their scheduled monthly payments. If a noncustodial parent falls behind on child support, there can be serious ramifications.
A lot of noncustodial parents do not realize all that could happen to them if they fall too far behind on their child support. What they’ll often do is lose their job, become disabled or ill, and they’ll do nothing. They will fall short on their payments or they’ll stop paying altogether, and they won’t contact the local child support agency to make a payment arrangement, nor will they petition the court for a downward modification.
In these situations, the child support will continue to accrue until it snowballs out of control. Before the noncustodial parent knows it, the local child support agency will start to take action to collect the child support arrears due.
Child Support Collection Tools
Child support agencies have lots of tools in their toolbox when it comes to child support enforcement and collecting past-due child support. Here are some of the common methods used to collect child support arrears from a noncustodial parent:
- Seizing the funds in the parent’s bank accounts
- Freezing a parent’s bank accounts
- Suspending the parent’s driver license
- Suspending the parent’s business, professional, occupational, and recreational licenses
- Taking the parent’s tax refund for child support
- Taking the parent’s lottery winnings
- Placing a lien on the parent’s property
- Denying the parent’s U.S. passport if they owe $2,500 or more
If you have fallen behind on your child support payments for any reason, it’s crucial that you be proactive. If you take a “wait and see” approach, you can be subject to any one or more of the enforcement methods listed above.
Additionally, if you cannot afford your current child support obligation because your circumstances have changed significantly, you may be eligible for a downward modification. However, modifications are not retroactive, so you want to petition the court right away if you meet the criteria.