Even when a relationship ends in a breakup or divorce, most couples realize that paying their children's expenses is the right thing to do. Unfortunately, however, a sizeable number of parents fail or refuse to pay child support.
This article will explain how child support is enforced in the State of Wyoming. 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 orders are official government orders that indicate who is responsible for paying the basic support and medical care expenses of children. Most commonly, the "noncustodial parent" (the parent who spends less time with the children) makes regularly scheduled child support payments to the "custodial parent" (the parent who spends more time with the children). This ensures that expenses are divided fairly.
Many couples who have divorced, separated, or broken up reach informal agreements about child support. These informal agreements might be written down, or they might have been spoken aloud. It's commendable that these parents can work together, but unfortunately, the informal nature of their agreements makes them legally unenforceable. That means that if a noncustodial parent doesn't pay child support and becomes a "delinquent" or "deadbeat" parent, state agencies and judges won't be able to enforce the informal agreement. There's a simple solution: parents who have informal agreements should go to court and ask the judge to include their informal agreement in an official, formal court order for child support.
If parents can't agree about child support, they'll still need to go to court and have a judge issue a court order setting forth the amount and duration of child support.
For a detailed discussion of how child support is calculated and who renders a support decision, please see Child Support in Wyoming by Teresa Wall-Cyb.
Once a judge issues a child support order, everyone has to obey it. If the noncustodial parent fails or refuses to pay, the custodial parent has several legal options to enforce the order and collect any overdue support.
If a noncustodial parent has become delinquent and isn't making payments according to the child support order, the custodial parent has the legal right to return to court and file an enforcement action. An enforcement action gives the judge the power to order the delinquent parent to follow the support order and make the required payments. Custodial parents have the right to file an enforcement action on their own and represent themselves in court. They also have the right to hire a private attorney to pursue the action on their behalf.
The judge has several choices in these situations. It's relatively common for judges to fine or jail delinquent parents for "contempt of court" (meaning, the delinquent parent disobeyed a court order – in this case, a child support order). A judge might also require a delinquent parent to pay a portion of the outstanding child support as a condition of being released from jail. Noncustodial parents can avoid all these outcomes by paying their support in full and on time.
Within Wyoming's Department of Family Services is a special working unit called the Child Support Enforcement program (CSE). CSE is tasked with providing child support services to both receiving and non-receiving parents. Federal and state law require the CSE to provide these services, including:
If you need to get in touch with CSE, you can find contact information here or else you can speak with your local office. You can and should also read A Guide to Wyoming's Child Support Enforcement Program, so you understand your rights and responsibilities.
Noncustodial parents who don't pay their child support exactly as ordered are in for trouble. Family court judges and CSE have an arsenal of legal and financial weapons they can use to extract money from delinquent parents. Their goal is to obtain payment in full from parents with "arrearages" (past-due child support accounts). The tools that the courts and CSE can use in Wyoming include: