Child Support Enforcement in Arkansas

Learn how to enforce child support orders and collect overdue payments in Arkansas.

By , Attorney · Harvard Law School
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Every parent has a moral and legal duty to financially support his or her children. Most parents will do so willingly, but when parents who have been ordered to pay child support fail to live up to their obligations, each state provides ways to hold them accountable.

This article will explain how child support is enforced in the state of Arkansas. If you have additional questions about child support enforcement in Arkansas after reading this article, contact a local family law attorney.

Establishing Child Support in Arkansas

You can't ask a court to enforce child support unless you have established court-ordered child support. There are a few ways to establish child support: you can agree with the other parent on child support and then ask a court to approve your agreement and issue an official child support order, you can hire an attorney to file a child support case on your behalf, or you can contact the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) to help you establish child support. Read the article "Child Support in Arkansas" for more information on establishing child support.

Enforcement of Child Support in Arkansas

Once child support has been established, there are several ways that the court can enforce the child support award.

Motion for Contempt

The court's main enforcement tool is a "contempt citation." If the parent paying child support falls behind, the court can hold that parent in "contempt," which means that a judge has concluded the parent disobeyed a court order.

A contempt finding can be very serious. Generally, when a parent is found in contempt, the court will order the parent to pay all past due child support. A judge may also order the parent to pay monetary fines and even serve jail time. Asking the court to issue a contempt citation against the other parent is the most direct way to address past due child support.

Court Orders Aimed at Collecting Support

Besides contempt, courts have a number of other ways to deal with delinquent parents. Judges can issue any of the following orders:

  • a "withholding order" that takes the delinquent parent's income from his or her paycheck and gives it to the custodial parent for child support; up to the amount of child support plus 20% for past due payments
  • a garnishment order to take money from a delinquent parent's bank account
  • a garnishment order that places a lien against a delinquent parent's real property, such as a house or land
  • a garnishment order that places a lien against personal property, such as a car or truck, and orders that property to be sold to pay child support
  • an order for attorney's fees and other costs spent by the custodial parent trying to get child support
  • an order that takes public assistance funds or state Medicaid from the delinquent parent to be paid to the custodial parent as child support.

You can seek any of the above remedies by by filing a motion (legal request) for contempt and asking a judge to address past due child support in whatever way best fits your situation. If you choose to represent yourself, you may find additional information about local rules and forms related to child support enforcement on your local court's website. You can find contact information for all of the Arkansas circuit courts here.

Alternatively, you can hire a private attorney to file for contempt on your behalf; if you can afford it, it may be more efficient to work with a local family law attorney, who is experienced in enforcing child support orders.

If you can't afford an attorney and you meet certain requirements, OCSE may be able to help you enforce your child support order. You can check to see if you are eligible for help from OCSE and apply for its services here.

Other Penalties for Nonpayment of Child Support in Arkansas

Parents that fail or refuse to pay child support may face additional, more severe penalties besides those listed above.In Arkansas, parents that fall three months or more behind in child support payments can have their driver's licenses and license plates suspended by the Department of Finance and Administration. In addition, when parents owe $2500 or more in overdue support, they may have their passports revoked or denied.

Some additional, criminal penalties include:

  • If a parent falls $10,000 or more behind on child support and is behind by more than 12 months, OCSE can refer the case to the state for criminal prosecution of "nonsupport" - this is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
  • If a delinquent parent tries to leave the state of Arkansas to avoid paying child support, the crime becomes a felony, punishable by up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

If you have additional questions about enforcement of child support in Arkansas, you should speak with a local family law attorney.

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