After a divorce is finalized and child custody arrangements are agreed upon, you and your children can move on to a new chapter in your lives. However, what happens when your ex can’t (or refuses to) hold up their end of an agreement? If a set amount of child support was established in your final divorce decree, but your ex doesn’t pay, it can quickly become problematic for you and your children. Thankfully, there are ways to legally deal with delinquent ex-spouses and ensure your children get the financial support they need. Allow Essig Law Office to explain some legal options you can pursue when your ex doesn’t pay.
The Legality of Child Support
Like any other handed down by a court, child support is no different.
Per the Illinois Non-Support Punishment Act, a parent can find themselves in violation of a child support order if any of the following scenarios are true:
- The parent outright refuses to contribute towards child support when they possess the means for making consistent payments.
- If missed child support payments go for longer than six months and the total payments exceed $5,000.
- If missed payments of child support go for longer than twelve months and the total payments owed exceed $20,000.
- The parent flees the state to avoid paying support of more than $10,000.
When these scenarios arise, the parent seeking support payments can take legal action against the spouse in default.
What Can Be Done?
As the parent with primary custody of your children, you deserve to have your ex-spouse held accountable for neglected child support. In cases where child support payments are intentionally spurred, a court can hand down punishments and penalties for the delinquent parent. Otherwise, there are other methods for ensuring support is covered over time in scenarios where payments are missed but out of inability to pay. However, it starts with contacting the Illinois Department of Child Support Services (DCSS). Through DCSS, here are a few of the ways you can hold a delinquent parent responsible:
- Hiring Private Collection Agencies – If a parent goes into default on payments, DCSS can help you seek repayment through private collection agencies. A collection agency will actively pursue a parent for repayment of child support, with the threat of interest and negative marks on credit score.
- Suspension of Licenses – If a parent possesses specific professional and vocational licenses, DCSS can contact the Illinois Department of Professional Regulations to have those licenses revoked. The revocation of a driver’s license is also an available option.
- Taking of Tax Refunds – If missed payments continue, the parent at fault might not see any of their tax return. DCSS can intercept federal and state returns of a delinquent parent and apply that money towards due payments.
- Lock Down Travel – If your ex is planning a trip out of the country, they should consider making child support payments first. The DCSS can refer your case to the U.S. State Department, which will deny any passport requests made by the parent in default.
- Withhold Benefits – Federal benefits might no longer be available to parents who continue to avoid child support after a case is referred to the U.S. Treasury Department. However, veterans’ disability benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and student loans are exempt from withholding.
- Property Liens – Even the property a delinquent parent holds is not safe from the DCSS. A lien can be placed against a parent’s house or land, making it impossible to sell or transfer property ownership until unpaid child support is resolved.
- Direct Payment Deductions – It’s possible for the parent with primary custody to force the payment of the other parent. DCSS can request an income withholding order or wage assignment against the offending parent. This enforceable repayment tactic involves child support payments taken directly from a non-paying parent’s wages.
Contempt of Court
If all else fails, DCSS can bring your child support case back to court, where the non-paying parent can be found in contempt of court. For the paying parent, this can mean the incursion of fines, with the possibility of jail time. Here are the levels of punishments that are on the table:
- If a parent fails to pay child support for six months or owes more than $5,000, they can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. Maximum penalties for a Class A misdemeanor include fines up to $2,500 and one year of jail time.
- If a parent fails to pay child support for twelve months or owes more than $20,000, they can be charged with a Class 4 felony. Maximum penalties for a Class 4 felony include fines up to $25,000 and three years of jail time.
For Faster Turn-Around, Talk with Essig
While DCSS is the first option for parents looking to secure child support from an ex, DCSS isn’t always the most reliable way to pursue legal action. When DCSS takes up your case, they can be incredibly effective! Conversely, DCSS is often bogged down by an already overwhelming caseload, meaning your case might not get first priority. If you wish to pursue legal action faster than DCSS, a child custody attorney can help. Allow the legal professionals at Essig Law Office to pursue charges against a non-paying ex-spouse.
To learn more about the family law services Essig Law can provide or how we can assist in securing child custody payments, contact us at 309-444-8041. Also, we are located at 135 Washington Square, Washington, IL 61571.