How Can I Get Child Support Payments from a Deadbeat Parent?

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Sadly, many non-custodial parents fail to pay court-ordered child support, which places a heavy financial burden on children and their custodial parents. In order to combat this, federal and state legislatures have enacted strict policies aimed at enforcing support. The nationwide crackdown has made it more difficult for "deadbeat" parents to shirk financial obligations to their kids.

Establishing Child Support

State laws govern how child support is calculated. Most states rely on a specific formula that considers various factors, such as parents' incomes and time spent with each child. An experienced family law attorney will know how to file a request for child support on your behalf.

If you can't afford an attorney, don't give up hope. All states offer some child support services to help parents establish, enforce and collect child support. These government-sponsored child support offices are typically referred to as the "Office of Child Support Services" (OCSS) or "Department of Child Support Services" (DCSS).

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Child Support Enforcement website has a lot of useful information about child support and an OCSS search tool that provides contact information for offices in all 50 states and D.C.

Enforcing Child Support

Once established, a child support order must be obeyed. If you aren't receiving court-ordered child support payments, you can ask an attorney or your local OCSS for help "encouraging" the delinquent parent to pay. Parents that fail to pay child support may be subject to severe penalties, including:

  • Wage Deductions – child support is taken directly out of the non-custodial parent's wages.
  • Federal Income Tax Intercepts – the state can intercept a large tax refund to cover late or missing child support payments.
  • License Suspensions and Revocations – a driver's license and professional license(s) may be revoked.
  • Passport Restrictions.
  • Contempt of Court – this is a court order that may result in a fine or jail time.

Federal Prosecution of Deadbeat Parents

The U.S. Office of the Inspector General (OIG) can intervene in child-support cases where the non-custodial parent lives in a state other than where the child lives, and:

  • refuses to pay child support for over one year
  • where the amount owing is more than $5000, or
  • where the non-custodial parent travels to another state or country to avoid paying child support.

The punishment includes fines and up to six months in prison (or both) for a first offense. For a second offense, or where child support hasn't been paid for two years, or the support owed is more than $10,000, the punishment is a fine of up to $250,000 or two years in prison, or both.

Some of the most notorious deadbeat parents are also added to OIG's Most Wanted Deadbeats list online.

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