Going through a divorce or separation is daunting; collecting child support or alimony, even with a court order, can make it even worse. Individuals who are not getting the support they are owed are not alone.
Collecting Child Support
According to a 2009 report by the U.S. Census Bureau, less than half of parents with a current support order are collecting the full amount each month. Because of this, federal law requires that each state have a child support enforcement office.
The Child Support Division of the Oregon Department of Justice, for instance, can pursue a variety of actions on order to enforce support orders in Oregon. For instance, the division can:
- Garnish wages. The state can take money directly from the obligor's (the person ordered to pay support) paycheck. Wage garnishment is the most common action taken by the child support division.
- Intercept refunds and payments. The division can withhold tax refunds, intercept unemployment insurance benefits and workers' compensation payments.
- Notify credit bureaus. Delinquent child support can be viewed as unpaid debt and the child support division can notify credit bureau of support arrears; thus negatively affecting the obligor's credit score.
- Criminally prosecute. If child support arrears become particularly egregious, the obligor can face criminal charges, jail time and fines.
- Suspend a passport or certain licenses. The obligor's passport can be suspended by the U.S. State Department. Also, the child support division can recommend that the obligor's driver's license, professional license, and/or recreational licenses be suspended.
Individuals can register with the child support division and those not currently registered can speak with a family law attorney for help with the process.
Collecting Unpaid Spousal Support
Failing to pay court ordered spousal support is just as bad. Obligors who fail to pay the requisite court ordered support can be held in contempt of court. Contempt is a very serious offense, and judges do not take it lightly.
Judges can impose actions similar to those levied for unpaid child support, including wage garnishment and license suspension. The court may also impose fines and even send offenders to jail.
However, proving contempt could be difficult and the process of collecting unpaid support can be a long, arduous process. Luckily, with the assistance of a family law attorney many are successful in recovering the money they are owed.