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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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)