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Child Support Arrears: What They Are and How to Get Them Paid

If you are owed child support, it is essential to understand the tools you have at your disposal to resolve any issues. Here, the experienced attorneys at Protokowicz & Rodier explain what child support arrears are and how you can collect on missed payments.

Child Support Arrears

Many non-custodial parents, or parents without primary custody, are mandated by the court to provide financially for their child. When these parents fail to make the mandated payments, and child support becomes past due, it is termed “Child Support Arrears.”

Because many single parents and their children depend on support payments, a series of policies and enforcement laws have been put in place to ensure that custodial parents are able to receive the full amount they have been awarded by the court.

Calculation of The Child Support Arrears

Arrears are simply calculated by determining the amount that a delinquent parent has already paid and the amount that they still owe for past months.

If your child support amount has changed since the payments became past due, the amount will be calculated using the value of the support on the month or months that is past due. For example, if two payments of $800 for the months of April and May are overdue, but the presiding judge decreased the monthly support payment to $700.00 in June, then the delinquent parent will be required to pay $1,600.00 for April and May plus the $700 for June, making the grand total $2,300 of child support arrears.

Collecting Child Support Arrears

In most states, the collection of child support payments is automatically completed through wage withholding. But, if a payment is missed, custodial parents have a legal right to seek the financial assistance granted to them. Moreover, they have a right to assistance from law enforcement officials or governmental agencies in seeking full payment.

As such, each state has institutes an agency to help collect unpaid support. Here in Maryland, The Maryland Child Support Enforcement Administration (CSEA) plays an essential role in ensuring that all children receive the support necessary to thrive. This administration works both with custodial parents to aid in the collection of arrear payments as well as with non-custodial parent to create a plan to overcome any payment challenges they may face.

When timely payment is not made, the CSEA has the authority to use the following enforcement tools to collect and distribute past-due child support:

  • Wage Withholding. Many child support arrangements have a preemptive plan in place which requires the employer to automatically garnish the non-custodial parent’s wages after one missed payment. This is the most common way that past-due child support payments are collected.
  • Federal and State Income Tax Refund Offset. CESA has the authority to intercept both state and federal tax refunds when support is not paid. In these scenarios, the delinquent parent will receive a notice and can challenge the decision.
  • Lottery Winnings. If over $150 is owed, the CSEA can intercept any lottery winnings earned by the delinquent parent.
  • Passport Denial. Delinquent parents can have their passport application, or current passport, denied or suspended if they owe $2,500 or more in support.
  • Suspension of Driver’s License. If child support payments are over 60 days past due, the driver’s license of the delinquent parent may be suspended until payment is made and the MVA is contacted.
  • Revocation of Professional Licensing. If child support payments are over 120 days past due, any professional licenses of the delinquent parent may be revoked until payment is made in full or full payments are made for at least four consecutive months.
  • Consumer Credit Bureau. When the arrears balance is equal to, or greater than, 60 days of combined support (meaning the monthly amount plus any arrears payments) the CSEA is required to report past-due payments to a credit reporting agency.
  • New Employer Notice. Maryland has a central registry where all new hires are reported. If a new hire has past due support payments, a wage withholding order is sent to the new employer when they are registered.
  • Financial Institution Data Match (FIDM). Maryland has the ability to garnish financial assets of those owing support payments through the FIDM database match.
  • Liens. States can issue a lien on personal property or assets.
  • Unemployment Insurance. CSEA is authorized to collect payment through unemployment insurance.
  • Workers Compensation Commission (WCC). Any workers compensation payment can be intercepted to cover past-due payments.
  • Civil Contempt. Child support is a legal obligation, so those who a judge deems able to pay the obligation but choosing not to are subject to legal penalties or, in many cases, even incarceration.

If you are owed child support arrears and are unsure of the tools available to you, contact the experienced attorneys at Protokowicz & Rodier online or by phone at 410.803.1839 for assistance with collecting the child support you are owed.