Using the Court to Enforce Child Support Orders
“Here is a summary of what happened this morning at what I believed to be our trial date. The two attorneys spoke briefly before we were called. When we got before the judge something was said about needing a 1:30 time for a trial. She opened up her calendar and set another date for 08/17. It was the soonest she had. Never mind the judge was 30 minutes late. My attorney looked upset. Anything she tried to say to the judge was interrupted by the judge. I have no idea what is going on. I was under the impression we WERE having a trial TODAY! “– Michelle, mother of Kyle and Jason who are owed $15,000 in back child support
- Civil Enforcement
- Criminal EnforcementCourt monitoring projects have found that there is an 85% no-show rate on paternity cases at Juvenile Court and a 40% no-show rate at Family Court or Domestic Relations Court for Contempt cases.
- Civil Contempt Hearings = Judicial Discretion. This means the judge can punish or not punish the non-paying parent for failure to pay child support, even if you have iron clad proof. Think of it this way: if your child wants a cookie and you say NO, and then you find the child with the cookie anyway, you the parent can punish the child or not. For example, you can send them bed or just tell them never to do it again. Judges have the same type of power in contempt of court rulings.
- Use under-the-table earner only when you have no or little proof of income. It is better to gather good evidence and file criminal non-support charges. For example, if the non- paying parent works in a band, have a friend contact the band to find our how much they charge, names of band members, how they split the fee, and ask for references from previous people who hired the band. You can then subpoena the people who hired theband in the past and paid them, to testify to show that the non-paying parent had income.
- Use to obtain a seek-work order. Be sure order includes specific number of jobs to apply for and the timeframe in which to look for work and report back to the court or government child support agency. This should be stated in the petition filed with the court to obtain a hearing and repeated at the court hearing.
- Use for those who only pay when brought to court―ask the court to schedule an automatic review hearing of your case every 2 months. This should ensure payments at least every 60 days.
- Use to obtain lump sum money judgment for back support due with interest. Not all States automatically provide interest, so be sure to ask that language be included in the order which lists the rate of interest.
- Don’t use against self-employed if you do not have proof of income. Judges are very unlikely to punish a non-paying parent unless you have evidence to show the court that the parent had income and chose not to use it to support the child.
- Don’t use in the State where you live on an interstate case. Go to court where the non- paying parent lives so that if he/she no shows a bench warrant can be issued and they can be pick up, and so that any order that is issued to attach assets, etc., can be enforced. You can participate at the court hearing in the other State via telephone conference call. This is arranged by the government child support agency.
- If the non-paying parent no-shows, ask for a bench warrant. Sometimes bench warrants are called “body attachments” or “capias”. These warrants are not criminal and do not cross state lines. Once the non-paying parent is picked up, they should be asked to post a bond to ensure showing up at the newly scheduled court hearing. Ask your attorney to ask the judge for the bond money to be forfeited to the family owed support not the State. If you need help to get the non-paying parent picked up on a bench warrant, call the Sheriff’s Office Warrant Squad. Make sure they have all the information you have about the non-paying parent. If you know the location of the non-paying parent, tell them. For example say, I’m calling about bench warrant #123 on John Smith. He is currently at Joe’s Bar, 5678 Main St.
- Writ of Execution (“fieri facias” ― levy): The Sheriff seizes the property and it is placed for public sale. The cost of court fees and appraisal will be taken out of the monies collected. The remainder of funds should go towards your back child support
- Garnishment (Writ of Garnishment): The non-paying parent is notified and if no defense is presented, the employer is notified and wages are taken. A new garnishment must be done each time a paycheck is received to collect the back support. This method is suggested for bonuses and commissions. This is not the same as an income- withholding/wage-withholding.
- Creditors’ Bill: this forces the non-paying to turn over assets to the court for child support debt.
- Foreclosure: forced sale of real or personal property.also see criminal court enforcement