Unfortunately, child support often becomes a bone of contention, with paying parents suspicious about where their money is going and receiving parents feeling that the other parent is stingy and uncaring. In a significant percentage of cases, child support payments stop altogether. The children—the true innocents—are trapped in the middle.
This article will explain how child support orders are enforced in the State of Kansas. If you have any questions about child support enforcement after you read this article, you should contact a family law attorney for advice.
Kansas law requires both parents to pay child support. When child support is calculated, both parents are expected to provide for the welfare of their children, including general financial and medical support. Kansas law is also very specific in requiring parents to provide for their children's educational expenses. For purposes of this article, the parent who receives child support is known as the "receiving parent," while the parent who has to pay is called "the paying parent."
Whether you're divorcing or you've never been married, when your relationship ends, you need to get an official child support order if you want to make sure you can enforce the support obligation later on. In Kansas, child support orders are determined according to each parent's adjusted gross income and a mathematical formula known as the child support guidelines. For a detailed discussion of how child support is calculated, see Child Support in Kansas by Teresa Wall-Cyb.
When a paying parent stops making payments and falls behind on support, the receiving parent must act in order to enforce a child support order on behalf of the child. The following sections will help clarify what steps to take in order to collect overdue child support.
Within the Kansas Department for Children and Families is a division known as Child Support Services (CSS). CSS was established to enforce state and federal laws regarding child support.
CSS performs a number of critical child support functions. It uses an administrative (non-judicial) process to locate parents who've disappeared, establish parentage (paternity) of children born to unmarried couples, trace parental sources of property and income, establish and modify child and medical support obligations, and enforce child support obligations.
CSS also acts as a clearinghouse for payments. Child support payments go directly to the Kansas Payment Center instead of parents writing checks to each other. CSS tracks the payment, making sure accounts are up to date. Then the funds are released onto a debit card that's given to the receiving parent.
CSS can apply enforcement measures when paying parents aren't meeting their child support obligations, but sometimes CSS is overloaded with a high volume of clients.
In some 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 family court judge to enforce a child support order and order a paying parent to pay overdue support. Of course with a private attorney, you will have to pay attorney's fees and costs, but in some circumstances, this can be more effective than waiting for CSS to act.
CSS has a number of legal options it can use to force parents to pay child support when they fall behind for more than 30 calendar days, including:
Kansas Statutes, Chapter 23 (Family Law Code)
Kansas Judicial Branch: Self-Help Information
Kansas Legal Services (child support information and legal assistance for qualifying individuals)