Matrimonial and Family Law Blog

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A Primer on Enforcing Child Support Orders

What can I do if my ex-spouse fails to make child support payments?

In a divorce involving minor children, child support issues can become contentious, particularly when a parent fails to make court ordered payments. In this situation, it is crucial to have a matrimonial attorney by your side who can take legal action in Family Court to enforce the child support order.

How is Child Support Determined?

The courts in New York consider a number of factors when making child support determination such as the child's standing of living while the parents were married, the income of the parent with primary custody of the child, and whether one parent is paying alimony to the other. The court also looks at each parent's income as well and the health, medical and educational expenses of the child. Child support payments are typically made on a monthly basis in an amount stated in the child support order. Payments must be made until the child becomes an adult.

How can I enforce a child support order?

A parent that fails to make payments according to a child support order, or stops making payments all together must be held accountable. Enforcing the order requires your attorney to prepare and file a legal document with the court, an Order to Show Cause, which must also be served on the so-called "deadbeat parent." The court will hold a show cause hearing at which time the non-paying parent must explain why he or she failed to make the required payments.

The court may find that the order was violated without cause, in which case there are a number of options. First, the court can order payments to be automatically deducted from the parent's paycheck. More drastic action available to the court includes:

  • Garnishing wages and income
  • Placing a lien on real property
  • Seizing bank accounts

In some cases, a parent who willfully disobeys a child support order may be found to be in contempt of court and potentially face prison time and fines. That being said, courts are generally reluctant to jail deadbeat parents since they will then be unable to earn the necessary income to make the payments.

The Takeaway

While it is in the best interest of divorced spouses to fulfill their moral and legal obligations to support the well being of their children, circumstances can arise when child support orders are not fulfilled. By engaging the services of an experienced family law attorney, you can take legal action to enforce a child support order.

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