Child Support Enforcement in New Hampshire

Learn how child support is enforced and collected in New Hampshire.

This article will explain how child support orders are enforced in the State of New Hampshire. 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 New Hampshire, child support is intended to pay for the basic care (food, shelter, clothing, education) and medical support (insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs) of children. 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.”

The parent who has physical custody (meaning, the parent who cares for the children more frequently) spends a greater percentage of time with the children. That parent pays for more of the children’s needs by virtue of the fact that they're together more often. So the other parent (also known as the non-custodial parent), who spends less time with the children, has to make regularly scheduled child support payments in order to ensure that each parent is paying a fair share of the children's expenses.

Whether you’re divorcing or you’ve never been married, when your relationship ends you need to get an official child support order. In New Hampshire, 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 and who renders a support decision, please see Child Support Laws in New Hampshire by Teresa Wall-Cyb.

How is Child Support Enforced in the State of New Hampshire?

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services is a state agency that serves New Hampshire’s families and children, women, teenagers, adults, seniors, and people with disabilities. Within the Department is a separate unit called the Division of Child Support Services (DCSS). The purpose of DCSS is to enforce state and federal laws about child support.

DCSS performs critical child support functions. It uses an administrative (non-judicial) process to:

  • locate absentee parents who are responsible for child support
  • establish paternity of children born to unmarried couples
  • set up child and medical support obligations
  • review existing orders and adjust them if necessary
  • collect, process, and distribute child support payments
  • work with other states to ensure that parents pay their support orders no matter where they live, and
  • enforce child and medical support obligations.

When paying parents aren’t meeting their child support obligations, DCSS can use a variety of enforcement tools to collect overdue payments - these are listed in the section below.

Family court judges also have the authority to enforce child support orders and issue new orders aimed at collecting overdue support. If the local DCSS office is backlogged in 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 argue to a judge on their behalf. In some circumstances, this can be more effective than waiting for DCSS to act.

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

DCSS has a toolkit of financial and legal mechanisms it can use to obtain payment from parents with past-due child support accounts (known as arrearages). The tools include, but are not limited to:

  • New Hampshire child support orders include a withholding provision, which DCSS is able to use to withhold income from sources like wages and other earnings. The parent’s employer receives a notice of withholding, and part of the parent’s wages are diverted to DCSS.
  • DCSS can intercept the paying parent's state and federal tax returns and lottery winnings and apply them to any arrearages.
  • DCSS can suspend the paying parent's driver's license and other state licenses.
  • DCSS can report parents with arrearages to the consumer credit bureaus, which will damage those parents' credit ratings.
  • DCSS can refer cases with more than $2500 in arrearages to the U.S. Department of State, which will deny, suspend, or revoke passports to travel outside the country.
  • DCSS can file liens against a paying parent’s assets. The liens won't be released until the paying parent catches up on all arrearages. This means the paying parent can't sell or transfer any of these assets until child support is brought current.

DCSS can go outside the administrative process and involve the courts in child enforcement by:

  • Filing a legal action called a "contempt," which will require the paying parent to go to court and explain to a judge why support hasn't been paid on time. Contempts are very serious. They can result in jail time or entry of a judgment that will damage the paying parent's credit score.
  • Asking the court to require the paying parent to pay for the receiving parent’s court costs and attorney fees (if any).
  • Asking the court to order the paying parent’s property to be sold and applied to arrearages.
  • Requesting that the court order the paying parent to enroll the children in an employer-sponsored health plan, or provide equivalent coverage.
  • Referring certain cases for criminal prosecution.

Resources

New Hampshire Statutes, Title XLIII (Domestic Relations)

New Hampshire Legal Aid (child support topics and legal aid for qualifying individuals)

New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Child Support Services

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