Child Support Enforcement in Hawaii

Learn how the state can help enforce child support in Hawaii.

Breaking up is never harder to do than when you have children. You have to make all sorts of decisions about your children’s care and custody, including how to support your children financially. You’ll also have to get an official order that explains who has to pay child support and in what amount. But what happens when the parent that is supposed to pay child support fails to do so?

This article will explain how child support orders are enforced in the State of Hawaii. If you have any questions about child support enforcement after you read this article, you should contact a family law attorney for advice.

Child Support Overview

In Hawaii, child support is defined as a financial payment made for the necessary support and maintenance of a child, including medical expenses. Child support can even include so-called “costs of confinement,” which are maternity bills and hospital and delivery expenses incurred as a result of childbirth.

By law, child support is paid by both parents. But typically, the parent who has physical custody will spend a greater percentage of time with the child. That means the other parent, who spends less time with the child, winds up having to make regular child support payments to make sure the costs of raising the children are fairly divided. The parent who receives child support is known as the “receiving parent,” while the parent who has to pay is called “the paying parent.”

In Hawaii, child support amounts are determined according to a set of mathematical guidelines that are based on gross income. For a detailed discussion of how child support is calculated, see Understanding and Calculating Child Support in Hawaii by Teresa Wall-Cyb.

If a paying parent falls behind in child support or refuses to pay, there are several ways a receiving parent can get help.

The State of Hawaii Can Enforce Child Support

Hawaii has a state agency that is dedicated to nothing but child support enforcement. It’s called the Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA), and it’s part of the Department of the Attorney General. CSEA works to enforce many state and federal laws about child support payments. To that end, it uses an administrative (meaning, non-judicial) process to determine paternity of children, establish and modify child support obligations, act as a clearinghouse and distribution point for child support payments (to ensure that payments are tracked and parents don’t have to write checks directly to each other), and enforce child support once it’s been ordered. CSEA will leap into action when it learns that a paying parent is shirking the duty to pay child support.

Generally speaking, CSEA is capable of implementing enforcement measures if paying parents aren’t meeting their obligations. However, in urgent or complicated cases, receiving parents might find it’s in their best interest to locate a private or legal aid attorney who can go to court and argue to a judge on their behalf. Sometimes this can be quicker or more effective than waiting for the CSEA machinery to crack down on a delinquent parent.

What Happens If I Don’t Pay Child Support as Ordered?

When it comes to paying parents who aren’t meeting their obligation to provide financial support for their children ("delinquent parents") CSEA has an arsenal of tools designed to extract payment. The CSEA will implement some or all of the following measures, depending on the facts of the case:

  • withhold income from the paying parent’s paycheck
  • “capture” past-due money by withholding state and federal tax refunds
  • withhold a portion of certain federal benefits, for example, federal retirement benefits (but CSEA can’t withhold veterans’ disability benefits, need-based payments (like SSI), federal student loans, and certain kinds of Social Security)
  • deny a passport to anyone who owes more than $2500 - CSEA refers these cases to the State Department, which then invokes a federal law to deny passports to delinquent parents
  • report delinquent child support balances to the credit bureaus
  • initiate a financial institution data match - CSEA contacts every bank that does business in Hawaii; the banks identify the delinquent parent's accounts and allow CSEA to levy (take from) or issue liens against the accounts
  • suspend the parent’s driver’s license and any other professional or vocational licenses, and
  • obtain a lien against a delinquent parent’s house or land, which can’t be released until the child support balance is paid.

If you’re the paying parent, don’t fall into arrearages (the total of all missed payments) because you’ll be facing a tremendous uphill battle. Don’t let this happen to you. Get in touch with CSEA, a family lawyer, or a legal aid attorney for advice about reducing your payments and paying off your arrearages.

If you need help collecting child support, contact your local CSEA office or speak with a family law attorney in your area.

Resources

Haw. Rev. Stat. § 576D

Haw. Rev. Stat. § 576E

State of Hawaii Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA)

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