Child Support Enforcement in Connecticut

Learn how child support is enforced and overdue payments are collected in Connecticut.

Most noncustodial parents pay court-ordered child support in full and on time. Sometimes, however, a noncustodial parent refuses or fails to pay, and the custodial parent is left to figure out how to enforce child support and collect payments.

Each state has laws to ensure child support gets paid. This article explains how child support orders are enforced in Connecticut. If you have additional questions after reading this article, you should consult a local family law attorney for help.

Establishing Child Support in Connecticut

A court can only enforce a child support agreement that is part of a court order. If you have a verbal agreement or even a written agreement not filed and approved by a court, and the noncustodial parent stops making payments, a judge will be unable to punish the nonpayment of support with enforcement tools, such as contempt of court.

If you don’t have court-ordered child support in place, you can obtain an order by filing a motion (written request) for child support in the superior court for your county. To establish child support, you will have to complete the following steps:

  • prepare and file a motion for child support on your own
  • hire a private attorney to file a motion for child support on your behalf, or
  • file an application with the Connecticut Bureau of Child Support Enforcement to have them file for child support on your behalf.

Bureau of Child Support Enforcement

The Bureau of Child Support Enforcement is available for any custodial parent who applies for services. If you have ever received TANF assistance, the bureau’s services are free. If you have never received TANF assistance, the bureau will collect $25 per calendar year from the child support they collect on your behalf, as long as they collect at least $500 within the year.

Enforcing Child Support in Connecticut

In Connecticut, there are a number of ways custodial parents can enforce child support orders and collect overdue payments from delinquent parents.

Application for Contempt

Contempt of court is the most common method used to enforce child support orders. When a judge decides a person has willingly refused to obey a court order, the judge holds that person in “contempt of court.”

Being held in contempt is a serious matter. The court can impose fines or even jail time on someone who is in contempt. The court can also order that a noncustodial parent’s income be withheld, decide how the parent will catch up on past due support payments, and take other steps to ensure he or she pays child support going forward.

To file a motion (request) for contempt against a delinquent parent, you can:

  • file a motion for contempt on your own, using this form.
  • hire a private attorney to file the motion for contempt on your behalf, or
  • ask the Bureau of Child Support Enforcement to file for contempt on your behalf.

After the motion has been filed in your county superior court clerk’s office, the court will set a date for a hearing. To prove that the other parent is in contempt of the child support order, you’ll have to show:

  • there is a valid child support order on file with the court
  • support hasn’t been paid according to the terms of that child support order
  • the delinquent parent’s nonpayment was willful, meaning:
    • he/she was aware of the child support order, and
    • he/she had the ability to pay the amount of child support ordered.

Court Orders to Collect Child Support

If the judge believes you’ve proven that the noncustodial parent is in contempt of the child support order, the court will issue a contempt order that outlines the punishment for the delinquent parent as well as the ways the delinquent parent must pay overdue and future support. The contempt order may also:

  • fine the delinquent parent
  • incarcerate the delinquent parent
  • place a lien on a parent’s property, real or personal, when at least $500 is owed
  • force a foreclosure on property to pay child support
  • garnish a parent’s money or assets held by a third party, such as a bank or employer
  • withhold income from future paychecks, when support is at least 30 days late
  • withhold federal or state tax refunds
  • withhold Connecticut state lottery winnings, or
  • seize personal assets and list them for sale, so that the proceeds will go towards overdue support.

In cases where a parent has been found in contempt of a child support order multiple times, the court may also order that the parent deposit four months’ child support in an account held by the Bureau of Child Support Enforcement, to be paid to the custodial parent if future payments are late or missed.

The court can also order that a delinquent parent pay the custodial parent’s attorney’s fees and other costs related to the motion for contempt.

Other Penalties for Nonpayment of Child Support in Connecticut

Other penalties may not be directly aimed at taking money from a delinquent parent to pay child support, but are meant to pressure a parent who refuses or fails to pay:

  • The judge can order that parents who are 90 days delinquent in child support lose their professional, occupational, recreational or drivers’ licenses if they do not pay overdue child support within 30 days of the order.
  • The Bureau of Child Support Enforcement can report delinquent parents to consumer reporting agencies (credit bureaus) when they are behind by more than $1000 – this report may lower their credit scores.
  • Delinquent parents may be charged with the crime of “nonsupport,” a misdemeanor, with a jail sentence of up to 1 year.
  • The court can refer serious cases – those with at least $5000 in child support "arrears" (back payments) - to a federal prosecutor, who can charge the delinquent parent with a federal crime. See Enforcing Child Support: Dealing With a Deadbeat Parent, for more information on federal enforcement of support.

Criminal actions for nonpayment of child support are rare in Connecticut and used only in the most extreme cases. Also, jail time is not used as an alternative to payment of child support, but as a way to pressure a parent to make payments.

If you have any other questions about enforcing child support orders in Connecticut, contact a family law attorney in your area for advice.

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