Child Support Services and Recovery

In the U.S., parents who divorce are still obligated to continue supporting their children financially. This support comes in the form of child support/maintenance payments that are made regularly (and does not include spiritual, physical, emotional, and other types of support). The different U.S. states as well as federally-recognized American Indian tribes are responsible for developing their own child support determination guidelines.

The child maintenance money is paid directly, sometimes indirectly, to an obligee by an obligor. In most cases, the obligee is the custodial parent, the state, the caregiver, or the guardian while the obligor is the parent who does not have custody. Despite popular belief, women also pay child support if they have a higher income. When the parents have joint custody, the two are considered to be custodial parents.

The amount to be paid as child maintenance fee is determined during divorce, marriage dissolution, marital separation, dissolution of civil union, determination of parentage, and annulment proceedings. Different jurisdictions have different methods of calculating the amount to be paid as child maintenance cost. In most jurisdictions, the amount is based on the income of both parents, the number of kids and their ages, school fees and basic living expenses, and if the kids have special needs such as disability or illness. Change of circumstances is factored in once the child maintenance fees are being reviewed. Child maintenance sometimes supplements alimony arrangements. So, what should you do if the obligor fails to pay child support?

Once a judge has ruled that the obligor has to pay child maintenance, it is illegal for the obligor to fail to pay up. The law allows the obligee to take action under such circumstances. This is captured in the 1992 Child Support Recovery Act (CSRA).

You can take the obligor to state court with evidence that you tried to collect the money and evidence that the money has not been paid over several months. For unmarried women, you must prove that the father was aware of the child's paternity. You can only take the case to federal court if the obligor has a history of moving to different states to avoid paying child maintenance, if there is no remedy available in the state court, and if the obligor has tried to hide to avoid payment. To take the case to federal court, the obligor should have in excess of $5,000 in back payments or should not have paid up for at least one year. This is captured by the Federal Child Support Recovery Act and the Federal Deadbeat Parents Act. 
It is, however, important that you note the relevant government agencies lack the resources to help with recovery. Consider enlisting the services of a child support recovery service. These agencies help with wage garnishment whereby they send a letter to the employee of the obligor and request him/her to withhold part of the salary. This is sent to the recovery service or is deposited to your bank account. Another common recovery method is the recovery service getting a post-dated check from the obligator.

The agency may ask for the suspension of the obligor's driver's license, other licenses, and even passports as a way of forcing him/her to pay up. The agency could take action to put the obligor in jail and may try to seek orders for the seizure of the non-payer's liens on assets or the assets themselves. The agency might also seek for the interception of tax returns. Under the Federal Child Support Recovery Act, a first offender can be jailed for up to 6 months over and above monetary fines. A second offender gets more jail time and higher fines.

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