Child Support Enforcement in Idaho

Read below to learn how child support is enforced in Idaho.

When couples with children separate or divorce, they must come to some agreements regarding how they will continue to financially support their children. If they can't agree on child support, they will have to go to court and ask a judge to decide. If they can resolve the issue on their own, their child support agreement must be converted into an official child support order for it to become enforceable. Then, if the parent responsible for making child support payments fails to pay, the other parent can go back to court (or to a local agency) and ask for help enforcing the order and collecting payment.

This article will explain how child support orders are enforced in the State of Idaho. 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 Idaho, the duty to pay child support for minor (underage) children refers to each parent’s obligation to pay for necessary food, clothing, shelter, education, and health care. 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 Child Support Laws in Idaho by Susan Bishop. The parent who receives child support is known as the “receiving parent,” while the parent who has to pay is called “the paying parent.”

Child support can be a high-conflict issue for some parents. Paying parents may feel they are simply enriching their exes' lives. But that just isn’t true. Child support is only paid for the benefit of the children. Just because the receiving parent handles the money doesn’t mean that parent can run out and buy diamonds or a sports car. Child support has to be used to pay for the children’s care. The receiving parent is only a custodian, not an owner, of child support funds.

Thus, it's never a good idea to stop making child support payments out of spite - this will surely result in a negative impact on your children. If you're the receiving parent and need help enforcing a child support order and collecting back payments, there are several options available to you.

How to Enforce Child Support Orders

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has a division that’s dedicated to providing child support services, including enforcement. It’s called Idaho Child Support Services (CSS), and it works to enforce state and federal laws regarding child support. CSS uses an administrative (meaning, non-judicial) process to determine paternity of children, establish and modify child support obligations, track child support payments, and enforce child support obligations.

You can contact your local CSS to find out if they can open a case on your child's behalf, in order to enforce a child support order and collect back payments owed to your child. But remember, you need a valid child support order that was issued by a judge. A simple written agreement between you and your spouse will not be sufficient for CSS to open a case.

Generally speaking, CSS is capable of implementing enforcement measures if paying parents aren’t meeting their obligations. However, they may have a back log of cases in their office. In urgent or complicated cases, parents might find it’s in their best interest to locate a private lawyer or legal aid attorney who can go to court and ask a judge to enforce the child support order and help collect payment.

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

The courts and CSS have an arsenal of legal weapons designed to force parents to pay up when they fall behind.

The most commonly used enforcement tool is the withholding order. All child support orders in Idaho are subject to automatic income withholding. This means if the paying parent falls one month behind, automatic withholding kicks in and the payment is deducted from the paying parent’s paycheck. The paying parent’s employer also has to be notified about the situation so payroll can be adjusted.

In addition to income withholding, the courts and CSS can do any of the following:

  • garnish the paying parent’s bank accounts
  • report delinquent child support balances to the credit bureaus
  • withhold the paying parent’s state and federal tax refunds
  • withhold a portion of some federal benefits, but not veterans’ disability benefits, need-based payments (like SSI), federal student loans, and some kinds of Social Security.
  • arrange for the suspension of the parent’s driver’s license, fish and game licenses, and any professional or vocational licenses if overdue payments exceed $2000
  • obtain a lien against a paying parent’s house or land
  • intercept PERSI (Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho) retirement benefits
  • refer parents with more than $2500 owed to the U.S. State Department, which will deny or revoke passports
  • initiate contempt proceedings, where the paying parent must appear in court and explain why the parent has disobeyed a lawful court order; contempt is serious and can result in fines and even jail time
  • ask a judge to sign and enter a “judgment” for past-due child care, child support, and medical support payments; a judgment has a disastrous effect on a parent’s credit scores and it enables the government to take various invasive actions to collect on the judgment, and
  • refer a delinquent child support case to the U.S. Attorney for federal prosecution, although this is rare.

If you’re the paying parent, don’t let yourself fall behind. Get in touch with CSS, a family lawyer, or a legal aid attorney for advice about reducing your payments and paying off your arrearages. The worst thing you can do is ignore the problem and let arrearages build up until CSS takes enforcement measures against you. If CSS pegs you as a so-called deadbeat parent, it’s a lot harder to undo the damage.

Resources

Idaho Statutes, Title 32 (Domestic Relations)

Idaho Court Assistance Office and Self-Help Center (divided by location)

Idaho Legal Aid Services (child support information and legal aid for qualifying individuals)

Idaho Child Support Services for Families

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