As an attorney who does collection work, our firm receives a lot of questions about how to deal with a noncustodial parent who lapses in payments of child support. Whether it is due to an unfortunate life event or someone simply evading their responsibility to their children, the collection of the outstanding amounts is a little different than the collection on a regular money judgment.
In certain circumstances, a noncustodial parent who is having problems making payments pursuant to the child support order may seek to amend the order due to a substantial change in circumstances to modify the existing judgment. The person seeking to modify the order will likely have an attorney prepare a post-judgment modification request for the court and depending on the circumstances, the court may modify the order.
In the situation where the noncustodial parent can pay the amounts they were ordered to pay, but is failing to do so, there is recourse for the custodial parent. In Illinois, most child support orders are usually enforced through state courts, but in certain circumstances can be enforced by federal law. Illinois courts have various remedies for dealing with a parent who is failing to make their child support payments. For example, the person can be held in contempt which could result in going to jail, their wages may be garnished, they may be ordered to perform community service, or pay steep fines. Criminal penalties are usually reserved for parents who willfully do not pay for over six months or have over $10,000 in back payments.
Enforcing Child Support Orders in Illinois
To enforce or collect a child support order, you should contact your local child support agency and bring a copy of your child support order. This triggers an investigation by the child support agency to try and get the noncustodial parent to pay. Child support agencies will employ some of the following resources available to help collect the support including (but not limited to):
- Placing a lien on property owned by the parent in arrears
- Wage garnishment
- Garnishing their bank accounts
- Suspending or revoking their Illinois driver’s license
- Requesting state or federal criminal prosecution for non-payment
- Denial of a US passport if more than $2,500 in arrears
- You can even list the name and photograph of the parent on the Illinois Deadbeat Parent website which is reserved for parents who owe more than $5,000 in past-due child support I actually thought this one was a joke, its not… https://www.illinois.gov/hfs/childsupport/delinquent/Pages/default.aspx
As for enforcing child support orders federally, Congress decided to address this situation head on by enacting immediate income withholding to be included in all child support orders. Illinois must also apply withholding to sources of income other than wages, like bonuses, worker’s compensation, disability, pension or retirement benefits. Immediate income withholding began on November 1, 1990 for child support orders that were issued or modified through state child support programs. Immediate income withholding began January 1, 1994 for all initial orders that were not established through the child support program. It is important to note that there is an exception for immediate income withholding if the parents agree to an alternative arrangement or if the court finds that there is good case. In this situation, if the balance due is equal to one month’s payment, automatic withholding will be triggered.
If the noncustodial parent has a job in which they receive wages, the withholding for child support is much like other forms of income withholding, i.e. payroll deduction. However, if the noncustodial parent is self-employed, moves, or changes jobs frequently, the child support office will try to enforce the order through other means. Taking the noncustodial parent who moves out of state and is in arrears on child support as an example, the custodial parent can apply for income withholding orders from other states, and continue the income withholding as ordered, without regard to where the respective parents live. Illinois (along with every other state) requires that an employer must withhold the support if ordered to. If they fail to do so, you should contact your local child support office and the staff assigned to the matter will send the employer the withholding notice, which is binding. If the employer fails to do so after receiving this notice, they will be liable for the accumulated amount that should have been withheld from the noncustodial parent’s income.
In addition here is a list of the child support programs from the Illinois Dept. of Healthcare and Family Services: https://www.illinois.gov/hfs/ChildSupport/parents/Pages/Programs.aspx