Enforcement of Court-Ordered Child Support

What Happens If a Parent Fails to Pay Child Support?

According to the Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED) of the Alabama Department of Human Resources, there is about:

  • $378,000,000 (and counting) of annual child support collections,
  • 296,000 (and counting) families being served, and
  • $4,000,000 (and counting) of unpaid child support.

In Alabama, a noncustodial parent is expected to adhere to the court-ordered payments until their support obligations end (which is generally when their child turns 19). But what can a custodial parent do to enforce the orders and collect payments if the other parent fails to make payments? Below, we will discuss what actions a custodial parent can take with the assistance of CSED and/or an experienced attorney.

In this article, we will be examining enforcement action as it relates to court-mandated child support. Informal or verbal agreements between two parents cannot be enforced by the court or CSED. If you and your child’s other parent have an informal agreement (i.e. an agreement outside of a court order), you should consult with an attorney and discuss filing child custody and/or support petitions with the court.

CSED Enforcement Actions

Failure to pay child support is a major contributing factor to child impoverishment, which is why CSED aims to help families ensure child support orders are followed. If a parent defaults on their payments, DHR will take enforcement action against the noncustodial parent in 30 to 60 days.

CSED enforcement actions include:

  • Withholding income. They can obtain a court order to deduct child support payments from the noncustodial parent’s wages, unemployment or retirement checks, or worker’s compensation check.
  • Reporting delinquency to credit bureaus. If a noncustodial parent’s arrears (i.e. owed payments) exceed $1,000, the debt will automatically be shared with credit agencies, which can negatively impact their ability to apply for and obtain loans, credit cards, etc. The debt delinquency will be reflected on their credit for 7 years.
  • Intercepting tax refunds. If a parent’s arrears total at least $150 (for a child also receiving TANF) or $500 (if the child does not receive TANF), they can be reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and State Department of Revenue. Back-owed support can then be deducted from their state or federal tax refund.
  • Interfering with their ability to obtain, renew, or keep your passport. If a parent’s arrears exceed $2,500, their passport application (for renewal, a new passport, etc.) can be rejected.
  • Placing liens on their property or bank accounts. Through Financial Institution Data Match (FIDM), a noncustodial parent’s accounts from financial institutions can be identified. After being identified, a lien or levy can be placed on the account. A lien can also be placed on their property (i.e. cars, real estate property, insurance settlement, or lump sum payments), which restricts the parent from selling, refinancing, or receiving the property.
  • Suspending or revoking their licenses. A noncustodial parent can lose their drivers’, professional, recreational, and/or sporting licenses suspended, revoked, or withheld if they fail to make child support payments.

What Is Contempt of Court?

A custodial parent can also petition the court to charge a noncustodial parent (who fails to make child support payments) with contempt of court. In Alabama, the official name for this type of petition is A Petition for Rule of Nisi. In addition to asserting that a parent is defaulting on payments, the petition:

  • includes details about the court-ordered payment amount and the current amount of arrears, and
  • asks the court to require the delinquent parent to appear in court and present evidence or cause concerning why they should not be found in contempt (civilly or criminally).

If found guilty, a noncustodial parent can be forced to comply with the original terms of the agreement, and they may also be penalized with fines and imprisonment. A guilty party may also have to cover the other party’s legal and court fees.

Get Legal Help

If your child’s noncustodial parent fails to pay child support, you should immediately consult with a trustworthy, knowledgeable attorney. Conversely, you should retain reliable legal representation if enforcement actions, specifically a petition for contempt, are taken against you. We can work tirelessly to protect the rights and interests of custodial or noncustodial parents in child support matters.

At Shaw Family Law, our firm is known for providing our clients with high-quality, cost-effective, and compassionate legal counsel. Our attorney is an advocate for his clients from the beginning to the end of their cases and is known for his client-focused and results-driven approach. With over 25 years of experience, Attorney Shaw has handled a vast amount of family law cases, including child support disputes and actions of contempt.

To learn more about how we can help you enforce your child support orders and/or file a petition for contempt, contact us online or via this online form. We are here and happy to provide the legal counsel you deserve.