Enforcing Child Support Payments – Sanctions When You Don’t Pay Up!

Is child support enforced?

In many states, both parents have a legal duty to support their child, before and after divorce. However, when a marriage ends in divorce and children are involved, child support issues may arise. For whatever reason, whether it be out of spite, economic hardship, or ignorance of the child support order, there exists a real possibility that child support may not be timely and adequately paid. If your former spouse has failed to pay child support, there are a variety of enforcement mechanisms available to you.

Any time a former spouse has failed to pay child support, the first thing you want to do is notify the former spouse in writing as to their failure to pay. If the former spouse continues to be delinquent in their payment of child support the next step is to contact the Florida Department of Revenue at State of Florida Child Support Enforcement Website. They have numerous methods to enforce payment of court-ordered child support including the following:

Suspension of Licenses

A teaching certificate or professional license may be suspended or denied because of a delinquent child support obligation. Other licenses or registrations, like fishing, diving, and hunting licenses may also be suspended or denied because of a delinquent child support obligation. If this remedy is employed, the license may only be reinstated when the delinquency is paid, a written agreement is reached, or a court grants relief.


Noncustodial parents who owe past-due support may have liens placed on their property by the Department of Revenue. If the past-due support is over $600 a lien may be placed on the obligor’s motor vehicle.

Intercept/Seize Assets

Unemployment compensation benefits may be intercepted to collect delinquent child support being enforced by the Department of Revenue. The Department may also intercept federal income tax refunds to obtain payment of past-due child support. Furthermore, a Florida lottery prize of more than $600 can be transmitted to the Department when outstanding child support is due.

Contempt of Court

If a noncustodial parent does not pay his or her support on time, it violates the court’s support order issued after the dissolution of the marriage, and a judge can find the noncustodial parent in contempt of court. The judge may require that parent to pay the money owed. If he or she still fails to pay, the noncustodial parent may go to jail.

In addition, for more direct and timely action without having to deal with the sometimes slow bureaucracy of government, you can hire an attorney and they can file a Motion for Contempt/Enforcement of Child Support Order.

For whatever course you deem appropriate, it is recommended you attain a family law case history of your matter. This will detail the terms of the child support order and the payment history for your case. To attain a family law case history, simply contact the clerk of the court for your county, ask for the family law division, and request a family law case history.

For more information about enforcing your spouse’s delinquent child support payments, contact an attorney.

Wage Garnishment & Property Seizure

If your child’s opposal parent files a lawsuit against you and obtains an order against you for unpaid child support payments, the custodial parent has a variety of collection methods to put into motion. Even if the custodial parent has the judgement in one state and you have moved to a different state, that parent can register the judgment in the second state and enforce it there.

Of the different ways to make sure that the receiver gets their payment, the most common method of collecting overdue support is wage garnishment. Not only can the custodial parent take portions of your paycheck, they can also seize your personal property.

Wage Garnishment – What is It?

A wage garnishment can be compared to income withholding. A percentage of your wages is removed from your paycheck automatically and delivered to the custodial parent before you can do anything with the paycheck. In many states, the arrears do not need to be made into an order to be collected through wage garnishment.

Procedures for Wage Garnishment

To garnish your wages, the custodial parent obtains authorization from the court in a document usually called a ‘writ of execution.’ With this authorization, the custodial parent directs the sheriff to seize a portion of your wages. The sheriff in turn notifies you and your employer, and the portion of your wages is automatically taken out of your paycheck and given to the custodial parent.

How Much Can the Court Take?

The amount deducted is a percentage of your paycheck and your previous payment amount becomes irrelevant when determining how much is taken out. The decision comes from the court – they simply take money out of each of your paychecks and leave you with a minimum to live on until the unpaid support is made up and all late payments are compromised.

Under the federal law, if a court orders that your wages be withheld to satisfy any debt except child support or alimony, a maximum of about 25% of your net wages can be taken.

For unpaid child support, a maximum of 50% of your net wages can be withheld, and up to 60% if you are not currently supporting another dependent. If your check is already subjected to wage withholding for future payments or garnishment by a different creditor, the total amount taken from your paycheck cannot exceed 50% (or 65% if you are not currently supporting another dependent).

Garnishment – How Is It Initiated?

To put a wage garnishment order into effect, one of the following must notify your employer:

  • The court
  • The custodial parent
  • The state agency
  • The county attorney

Once your employer is told to garnish your wages, your employer tells you of the garnishment.

Requesting a Court Hearing

You can request a court hearing, which will take place shortly after the garnishment has taken effect. At the hearing, you can make only a few objections:

  • The amount the court claims you owe is incorrect
  • The amount remaining is not sufficient enough to live off of
  • The custodial parent actively concealed your child, as opposed to merely frustrating or denying your visitation (only pertains to some states)
  • You had custody of the child at the time the support arrears accrued.

Seizing Your Property to Collect Child Support

If the wage garnishment does not compensate for the complete amount that you owe, the custodial parent may try to obtain the unpaid balance by going after other assets of your property. Examples of the type of assets that may fall under this category:

  • Cars, motorcycles, boats
  • Houses
  • Corporate stock
  • Horses and other livestock
  • Rents payable to you
  • Accounts receivable.

State Child Support Enforcement

We receive many questions on the topic of enforcing child support payments. The individual state Child Support Enforcement (CSE) sites listed below can answer many of your questions. The most common questions centered around the following:

  • Enforcing child support orders
  • Locating absent parents and their property
  • Getting an order of paternity, if the father needs to be identified legally
  • Getting an order for cash child support, if needed
  • Getting and enforcing an order for health insurance coverage for a child, and
  • Tracking support payments.

If you know of pages missing below, or problems with existing addresses, please let us know and we will update the links.

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