If you’re struggling to collect court-ordered child support from your ex-spouse or ex-partner and feeling frustrated, you’re not alone: studies repeatedly show that many people never receive the child support they’re owed. A 2013 report from the U.S. Census Bureau, for example, showed that about 26 percent of all child support payments are never paid, and another 28 percent are only partially paid.
So what are your legal options when you’ve received a judgment for child support in your favor, but your former spouse won’t pay?
Working with Child Support Services (CSS) in North Carolina
In 1975, Congress established the Child Support Enforcement and Paternity Establishment Program (CSE), a national program intended to reduce public welfare expenses by helping parents collect child support. Under this program, designated state authorities coordinate with the program’s national office to find noncustodial parents who owe child support and force them to pay.
In North Carolina, the state’s Department of Health and Human Services handles child support enforcement matters, and the program is referred to as Child Support Services (CSS). Here in Mecklenburg County, the CSS program is administered by the Mecklenburg County Child Support Enforcement Department. If you’ve already obtained a child support order from the court and the other parent has skipped payment, made partial payments, or simply not paid at all, you can contact the CSS office for your area to open a case.
CSS works with parents to track and receive child support payments, and they can also help you collect ongoing or past due child support through several methods, including:
- Withholding income from the nonpaying parent’s wages, social security, unemployment, workers’ compensation, or veterans’ disability compensation
- Reporting the nonpaying parent to credit bureaus
- Placing liens on the parent’s property
- Garnishing state and federal tax refunds or lottery winnings
- Suspending the nonpaying parent’s driver’s license as well as professional or sporting and recreational licenses
- Denying the issuance or renewal of a passport
- Filing contempt of court actions and issuing a bench warrant for the nonpaying parent’s arrest
If you aren’t receiving child support payments from your ex-spouse or ex-partner as ordered by a Mecklenburg County court, you should call the county’s CSS office at (704) 432-9300. You can also apply online to begin your child support enforcement case and receive a caseworker. Note that unless you qualify for a fee waiver, there is a $25 annual fee to use the program.
How an Attorney Can Help with Child Support Enforcement
While leaving your case to CSS may be viable in certain circumstances, it isn’t the only option for resolving your case and getting the child support payments you are owed. For one thing, CSS — like many government agencies — is overburdened and its cases tend to proceed slowly, so if you need money now, they may not be able to help.
If your situation is urgent or offers challenges that CSS may not be able to handle, you should consider contacting an experienced family law attorney who can go before a judge and advocate on your behalf. Your lawyer can help you exercise several other legal options that are available, including:
- Filing a motion for judgment: This motion asks the court to enter a judgment against the nonpaying parent for the total amount of child support owed. Once you’ve obtained a judgment, this opens several different methods for collection.
- Requesting a wage garnishment order: This court order will instruct the non-paying parent’s employer to deduct a specified amount from every paycheck they earn and send that money to you, either directly or through CSS.
- Requesting a writ of execution: This order allows local law enforcement to seize the non-paying parent’s assets, sell them, and then transfer money raised from the sale to you as payment against the balance of the child support you’re owed.
- Filing a motion for contempt: This motion will ask the court to find that the nonpaying parent violated a court order and is in contempt of court, which can lead to jail time for the offending parent. The threat of imprisonment may persuade the other parent to take their obligation seriously and pay what they owe.
Although trying to collect payment from a parent who won’t pay — even in the presence of a court order — can be a headache, having an experienced child support attorney on your side can make the process easier and far less stressful. If you need help, it’s important to contact a lawyer quickly so they can move to protect your rights and start creating a record of attempts to collect.
It’s important to know, however, that there are time limitations on enforcing child support. If there is a court order in place, there is a 10-year statute of limitations on collecting the payments due under the order. In the absence of a court order, you can only go back three years.
Struggling to Collect Child Support in Charlotte, North Carolina? Myers Law Firm Is Here to Help
If you live in Mecklenburg county and you’re not receiving court-ordered child support from your ex-spouse or ex-partner in full and in a timely fashion, the dedicated team at Myers Law Firm is here to help. We understand that your child’s needs can’t wait, so we’ll move quickly to learn about your situation and find a legal solution that meets your unique needs.
To schedule your initial consultation, please call our Charlotte office toll-free at 1-888-376-ATTY (2889) or contact us using our online contact form.
Grall, T. (2016, January). Custodial mothers and fathers and their child support: 2013. (P260-255). Washington, D.C.: United States Census Bureau. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2016/demo/P60-255.pdf
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.