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March

Enforcing Child Support Court Orders

By Jeffrey M. Salassa

gavel and money on the desk of a Clinton Township child support lawyer who just won a settlement

For most single parents child support payments are essential to their ability to provide the basic necessities for their children and if child support payments are irregular or nonexistent, the stability of the entire family is often threatened.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is involved at all levels of the child support process, from locating an absentee parent and establishing the child support obligation to collection for a failure to pay. A recent article in the Hillsdale Daily News discusses the role of MDHHS in assisting parents with the collection of child support from the non-custodial parent to the benefit of almost one million children throughout the State. However, despite MDHHS’ involvement, cases of child support arrearages will always be in existence and it is important for single parents to know how the courts can force compliance with child support orders. An overview of the penalties a judge can apply to parents that fail to pay child support follows below.

Financial Penalties

A parent can request enforcement of child support payments from a court in two different ways. They can directly petition the court with the assistance of an attorney or request help from Friend of the Court (FOC). The FOC assists parents with issues related to child custody, parenting time and child support, but cannot serve as a parent’s attorney; as their role is to primarily serve as an extension of the Court.

The primary method used to enforce child support obligations is through the issuance of an Income Withholding Order. These Orders require a parent’s employer to automatically deduct the court-ordered child support amount from the parent’s paycheck and direct the funds to the State collection unit for disbursement to the custodial parent. The IWO becomes effective as soon as the Order is issued by a Court and communicated to the parent’s source of income. In addition to regular employment, Income Withholding Orders are applicable to social security, unemployment compensation, workers’ compensation, bonuses, commissions, and severance payments.

Another method of enforcement is to withhold the non-custodial parent’s State and/or Federal Tax Refund. In order to withhold a Federal refund, the parent must owe the at least $150 in past due child or spousal support or $500 to the family. For State refunds, a refund check can be taken if the parent owes the State or family at least $150 in overdue child support. It should be noted that any tax refunds seized by the state cannot be disbursed to the family for a period of six months if the parent who owes support files a joint return, because his or her spouse has the right to file for a return of his or her portion of the refund with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Further, any parent who owes two or more months worth of back child support may have this debt reported to the National Credit Agencies by the State, which could affect the parent’s ability to obtain a loan or find a job. Additionally, a lien can be placed against the personal or real property of the non-custodial parent, which will restrict the parent’s ability to transfer the property and allow the lienholder to seize the property in order to pay the child support.

Civil or Regulatory Penalties

If a parent fails to pay child support, it is also possible for the FOC or the custodial parent to file a civil contempt action to force payment. At the hearing before the Judge, the non-custodial parent can be required to pay the overdue child support or face jail time. Finally, the court also has the authority to suspend the parent’s drivers or occupational license if the support is two or more months in arrears.

Consult a Michigan Family Law Attorney

Failure to receive Court ordered child support is a serious issue that should be addressed as a soon as possible. The longer you wait to pursue the delinquent parent, the longer it will be until you receive all of the money which you are owed. The Clinton Township family Law Firm of Iafrate & Salassa, P.C. understands the struggles of parents who cannot rely on consistent child support payments in accordance with the Orders of the Court and they will work with you to ensure full enforcement of a standing Child Support Order. Contact them today for a free consultation.

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