How Can I Collect Child Support Enforcement Payments?

Child support payment

Child support is an incredibly important tool for providing for children that are not in a traditional two-family home. Unfortunately, getting a child support order may be just half of the battle. After that, you still have to get child support enforcement payments.

In other words, you may have to make the other parent pay what he or she owes you.

Here are some options to think about:

1. You might be able to take money right from their bank

Most states will allow child support enforcement payments to be pulled directly from the other parent’s bank account.  The federal government has worked with state child support agencies and banks to develop a central, standardized, electronic process to take past-due child support from bank accounts.  This is called a “levy.”  

2. You can collect from their paycheck

States have created very systematic methods for taking child support enforcement payments directly from an employee’s paycheck. In Texas, for example, a parent can request garnishment for unpaid child support and if a court agrees it will send an order directly to the employer saying how much money to withhold and where to send it.  

3. You can take their car (or maybe their home)

Most states allow unpaid child support payments to be attached as liens on the property of the person that owes money. This is most commonly used for cars, boats, and homes because these items have titles that clearly track ownership.

A lien can also be attached to other assets, like furniture. The lien can keep a person from transferring property, and in some circumstances, the state can even take the property and sell it. For example, in North Carolina the local sheriff will execute a lien on personal property (like a car or boat) by seizing the property and selling it.  The proceeds will then be applied to the unpaid child support.

4. You can block their passport

The federal government has a Passport Denial Program that collects a list of parents that have more than $2,500 in unpaid child support.  The U.S. Department of State will refuse to issue passports to anyone on this list until they satisfy their obligations.  

Get the passport blocked

5. You can impact their credit

Unpaid child support can be reported to credit agencies, which can do serious harm to the delinquent parent’s credit score.  Many parents will pay just to prevent the negative impacts of poor credit.

6. Take their tax return

Both the federal and state governments have programs to allow parents to collect unpaid child support through tax returns.  For the federal program, the debt must be 30 days past due and at least $25, so it is a fairly minimal standard.  This process is largely triggered automatically by state child support agencies that track delinquent child support.   

7. The government may help

Keep in mind that the government may have programs in place that can help. For example, New York State’s Division of Child Support Services charges just $25 per year to help parents that are owed significant child support.   


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