Child Support Enforcement in Kentucky

Learn how child support can be enforced and collected in Kentucky.

Many parents have no problem supporting their children after a separation or divorce. However, some parents fall behind on court-ordered child support payments or simply stop paying This article will explain how child support orders are enforced and payments are collected in the State of Kentucky. If you have any questions about child support enforcement after you read this article, you should contact a family law attorney for advice.

Overview of Child Support in Kentucky

Under Kentucky law, both parents have on ongoing duty to support their children. When child support is calculated, both parents are expected to provide for the welfare of their children, which includes not just basic financial support for things like food, housing and clothing, but also medical, dental, educational, vocational and other special needs. For purposes of this article, the parent who receives child support is known as the “receiving parent,” while the parent who pays is called “the paying parent.”

In Kentucky, child support orders are determined according to each parent's 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 Kentucky by Teresa Wall-Cyb.

Whether you’re divorcing or you’ve never been married, when your relationship ends you should get an official child support order from a court. Without an official court order setting the amount of child support, a receiving parent will not be able to enforce the child support amount in the future.

If the paying parent falls behind or simply stops paying support, the receiving parent will need to know what steps to take in order to enforce the child support order and collect payment.

What Role Does the State of Kentucky Play in Child Support Enforcement?

Within a state agency known as the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services is a department called the Department for Income Support. Child Support Enforcement (CSE) is a part of the Income Support Department. CSE was established to enforce state and federal laws regarding child support.

CSE performs a number of critical child support enforcement 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 and medical support obligations. CSE also reviews existing orders to decide whether they should be modified.

CSE also acts as a clearinghouse for payments. Paying parents enter their payments on the Kentucky Child Support Interactive Website. This prevents parents from having to write checks to each other or argue about money. CSE tracks the payments, making sure accounts are up to date. Then the funds are released to the receiving parent through a debit card or direct deposit.

Finally, CSE can apply enforcement measures when paying parents aren’t meeting their child support obligations (see below). However, some CSE offices may be overloaded with a high number of cases, so receiving parents might find that 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 help enforce a child support order and encourage a delinquent parent to pay. In some circumstances, this can be more effective than waiting for CSE to act.

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

CSE can employ a number of weapons from its legal arsenal to force parents to pay child support when they fall behind, including, but not limited to:

  • Filing liens against real property (houses and land) and personal property (vehicles and movable items). The property can't be sold or transferred until child support is current and the lien is removed.
  • Intercepting state and federal tax returns and lottery winnings from the paying parent and applying them to the overdue child support (known as "arrearages").
  • Garnishing bank accounts, employment bonuses, lump sum earnings, and savings accounts.
  • Seizing part of the paying parent's unemployment or workers' compensation benefits.
  • Suspending, denying, or revoking the paying parent's driver's license, recreational licenses, sporting licenses, licenses to carry a concealed weapon, and professional and occupational licenses and certificates.
  • Referring cases to the U.S. Department of State, which will deny a passport to anyone who is more than $2500 behind on child support.
  • Requiring the paying parent to pay a bond into the court. The bond represents a portion of the unpaid child support, and will be held until the past-due support is paid.
  • Referring cases for state and federal prosecution.
  • Obtaining private medical insurance for the children through the paying parent's employer, if the paying parent has not already done so. The paying parent will then be billed for the parent's proportionate share of the medical expenses.
  • Transferring the child's health insurance to a new employer if the paying parent changes jobs.
  • Initiating contempt proceedings. This means that the paying parent has to go to court and explain to the judge why he or she disobeyed a lawful child support order. Contempts are very serious and can result in jail time and damage to credit scores if a judgment is issued.

If you’re a paying parent, the worst thing you can do is fall into arrearages. If you think you might have a problem keeping up with payments, contact the CSE, 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 bury your head in the sand and let arrearages accumulate until CSE or prosecutors take enforcement measures against you. Once CSE begins enforcement measures against you, it’s harder to fix the damage to your finances and your reputation.

If you're a receiving parent, it's important that you understand all the enforcement mechanisms that CSE can take against a parent who's failed to pay child support. Understanding the law and your options will prepare you to contact CSE and ask them to take the appropriate action to ensure that your children are financially supported and have what they need.

Resources

Kentucky Revised Statutes, Title XXXV (Domestic Relations)

Kentucky Court of Justice Online Services

Legal Aid Network of Kentucky (child support information and legal assistance for qualifying individuals)

Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Human Services, Department for Income Support (Child Support Enforcement)

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