Some parents consistently pay their child support obligations on time, while others simply ignore their child support orders. However, the State of South Dakota takes child support obligations very seriously and provides custodial parents with many ways to enforce child support orders and collect overdue payments. This article explains how to enforce child support in South Dakota. If after reading this article you have specific questions about child support enforcement, contact a local family law attorney for assistance.
When parents part ways, the parent who spends less time with his or her child (the non-custodial parent) will likely be required to pay some amount of child support. However, a divorce or separation does not automatically result in a child support obligation. There are several ways to obtain a child support order.
Sometimes, parents are able to agree on a child support amount and submit their agreement to a court for approval. If the court finds that the child support amount in the agreement is appropriate and in the child's best interests, a judge will issue a child support order based on that amount.
In cases where parents can't agree, a judge will decide how much child support the non-custodial parent must pay after a child support hearing or trial. To begin this process, a parent may hire a private attorney to file a child support action or file the necessary court paperwork on his or her own.
Alternatively, parents may seek child support through South Dakota’s Division of Child Support Services (DCSS). DCSS can help parents obtain child support orders, establish paternity, locate parents and collect child support payments. You can complete an Application for Child Support Services to open a child support case with DCSS.
Either way, a judge will need to approve the child support order to make it official. The official child support order will state the amount of support to be paid by the non-custodial parent every month. The non-custodial parent must pay the amount listed in the order until it's changed or the child reaches 18 and graduates from high school (unless other requirements are included in the order). For more information on how child support is calculated, read Child Support in South Dakota.
A late payment, partial payment and no payment are all violations of a child support order. Parents who disobey child support orders don’t just get off scot-free. Parents that remain delinquent on their child support payments may face serious penalties, up to and including jail time. The more back child support owed, the more severe the consequences will likely be. Below are a few of the most common ways for custodial parents to enforce child support orders and collect payments.
A custodial parent who is not receiving court-ordered child support may file a child support enforcement action, also called an Order to Show Cause, with or without the help of an attorney. A private attorney can file the necessary paperwork and argue on your behalf in court, but you can also represent yourself, if you can't afford an attorney.
If you decide to bring an Order to Show Cause on your own, you will be required to file the correct legal paperwork and represent yourself at the court hearing. Child support forms are generally available at your local courthouse or through your local court website. See the following article on What is a Show Cause Hearing for information on how to prepare for an enforcement hearing.
DCSS has several tools available to enforce child support orders and collect support payments. Although there is typically a small fee to open a child support case with DCSS, some parents may qualify for a fee waiver. Either automatically or upon request, DCSS may file a child support enforcement action with the court on your behalf.
South Dakota’s DCSS and family court judges take child support orders very seriously and will impose penalties and seize a non-paying parent’s assets to help collect overdue child support. Some of the tools used to enforce child support orders are as follows:
If a judge decides that the noncustodial parent violated the existing child support order, that parent can be found in “contempt of court.” South Dakota laws make a parent’s intentional refusal to financially support his or her child a misdemeanor, and a felony if the parent leaves the state.
A non-custodial parent found in contempt for non-payment of child support may face fines or be sentenced to up to 6 months in jail in the most extreme circumstances. Contempt is a harsh punishment used only in the most egregious cases of non-payment of child support.
If you have additional questions about how to enforce a child support order in South Dakota, contact an experienced family law attorney for help.
To find out more about enforcing child support orders, read the relevant child support statute contained in the South Dakota Codified Laws, Title 25, Chapter 7A-1, et seq.