Child Support Payments: My Ex Won’t Pay

Child Support Payments: My Ex Won’t Pay

U.S. Census Bureau data states that fathers with joint custody pay their child support 90 percent of the time; fathers with visatation pay their child support 79.1 percent of the time; and fathers with neither joint custody nor visitation pay their support only 44 percent of the time.

Most legal experts agree the percentage of non-custodial parents who can easily afford to make their child support payments, but refuse because they simply don’t want to abide with the court’s order are low. Stubbornness is not the only big contributing factor, they say. Most non-custodial parents refuse to pay because of suspicion – suspicion that the money isn’t being spent on the kids, or because they want to seek revenge against their ex. Some say there are as many reasons for non-payment of child support payments as there are reasons for marriages breaking up.

So what to do? What if your ex refuses to pay? What recourse can you take?

If you have made every effort to meet them halfway, by encouraging and allowing fuller access to the children and involving your ex more in decisions about the kids’ well-being, there are legal avenues for you to take.

For instance, in the state of Illinois, there is a statute called “Orders of Withholding” that can be used to collect child support payments from a stubborn ex-spouse. Under this law, the ex’s wages can be garnished by the state to meet their obligation. Another option is to set up a trust fund from which the custodial parent can withdraw if the child support payments owed aren’t timely.

There are several remedies available for a combating a non-paying spouse.  In California, for instance, the custodial parent may seek the assistance of Child Support Services for enforcement of their child support payments order.  Child Support Services may take actions such as intercepting income tax returns, revoke passports and licenses and filing wage garnishment orders. A spouse may also file a contempt action and request that the court award attorney fees as punishment (on top of the child support payments owed). A judge may even order jail time for the non-paying parent.

The Child Support Enforcement Act of 1984 provides district attorneys to help you collect child support from an ex-spouse or parent who refuses to pay child support payments in accordance with a court order. Most often, the district attorney serves your ex-spouse or child’s parent with papers. On these papers are instructions to meet with the district attorney in order to set up a payment arrangement. The papers say that if the person fails to follow those instructions, jail could be the next destination. Paradoxically, this can sometimes be counter-productive, since imposing jail time means the person is not working and earning money. That’s why imposing jail time is saved as a last resort. Instead, the district attorney can impose other consequences for failure to pay child support, including:

  • Withholding federal tax refunds and using these funds to pay child support
  • Garnishing wages
  • Seizing property
  • Suspending an occupational license (license to practice medicine, license to teach)
  • Suspending a business license (license to operate a restaurant)
  • Revoking the delinquent payer’s driver’s license.

Also, the U.S. Department of State can even deny issuance of a passport to someone who owes more than $2,500 in child support.


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