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