Child support is money that is calculated by a state-approved formula and typically paid by one parent to the other parent for the support of their child or children. It can include money for health insurance, medical expenses, childcare and expenses for education. The parent who receives the child support is like a trustee for the child, where the money passes through the parent for the benefit of the child. The money is meant for the child, not the parent, and the receiving parent is supposed to use the money to support the child.
Often, child support is made by an order of the court, but in Indiana child support also can be made by state agencies. The Indiana Department of Child Services is one such agency that can create a support order for a paying parent.
Who Can Enforce Child Support?
In Indiana, there are County Attorney’s Offices or Prosecuting Attorney’s Offices, which have child support divisions. The Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS), the Indiana Child Support Bureau, the Child Support Division of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, or the courts can all enforce the willful failure of the paying parent to pay child support.
Do the Agencies Try to Help a Paying Parent Catch Up?
In most states, including Indiana, the support enforcement agencies have numerous methods for enforcing child support. The agencies will work with paying parents but will try not to allow arrears, which is past-due child support, to accumulate to large amounts. If a parent truly cannot pay, the parent may want to discuss changing the child support order with an attorney. Changing or modifying a child support order may be the best thing to do if the parent has lost a job or is unable to make the payments.
When the paying parent willfully violates the child support order and chooses not to pay, the agencies will work with the parent to some degree but after awhile will use enforcement procedures to collect past-due child support. The best thing a parent can do is to contact the Child Support Division or DCS and try to work out a payment plan so the parent can catch up. If the parent violates or breaks the payment agreement, the agencies can use the different enforcement methods permitted by state law.
What Can Agencies and Courts Do to Enforce Child Support Arrears?
Arrears, which is past-due child support, can be collected in a variety of ways, none of which the paying parent will like. Some methods are worse than others but it’s really just a matter of degree. The enforcement practices used in most states aim to get the paying parent to actually pay child support and try to get that parent’s attention. There’s no doubt that these methods get the parent’s attention.
Some of the allowable enforcement procedures are:
- Placing liens on bank accounts, homes and cars
- Seizing licenses, which includes driver’s license and any recreational or professional license, such as fishing license or doctor’s license (if the parent is $2,000.00 or 3 months behind in the payment of child support)
- Garnishing paychecks or getting an income withholding order
- Seizing tax refunds and lottery winnings
- Pursuing enforcement even if the paying parent moves out of Indiana, as the states cooperate with each other
- Charging 1.5 percent on arrears, which sometimes is more than the arrears
- Holding the paying parent in contempt of court
- Incarceration or jail time
- Charging the parent with failure to support a child, which is a felony, and
- Getting a court judgment for arrears, which ruins credit scores
The child support agencies and courts can use more than one method to get money for past-due child support. It can use several of the above methods to get the parent to pay. Parents would be well-advised to work out new payment plans with the Child Support Division or with the agency in their county.
Carmel Family Lawyers Can Help You With Your Support Case
Our family lawyer is experienced in working with the different agencies and in helping you get a payment plan. Additionally, he can represent you if you are either brought to court on a contempt charge or if you decide you need to modify your support order. Each support case is unique. The attorney can represent you and help you with the court proceeding, the agency, or both. Contact Hains Law, LLC to learn how we can help you with your child support arrears.