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