Virtually the most difficult part of the child support process is in enforcing the order, a detail Congress recognized when it set about to overhaul the child support system. As part of the 1984 Act, Congress required that states implement certain specific measures and undertake to establish and fund the programs that required federal participation.
If there is a child support order in effect and payments have been delinquent for a period of time, and if the court believes it is necessary to ensure timely payments, it can order a wage assignment. The support money is deducted by the employer from the employee’s paycheck along with all other payroll deductions. Depending upon the court order, the money may be forwarded directly to the custodial parent. If for any reason this is unacceptable or unworkable, it can be sent by the employer to the court or to the state department of revenue, whatever the court decides.
One of the most effective methods of collecting child support related to wage assignments is through wage withholding. This is used in those cases in which child support payments are delinquent in an amount equal to one month of support. The law requires that the employer be notified and ordered to withhold the employee’s wages in accordance with a “provisional wage withholding order.” If the employer should fail to do so, it can be held responsible for the amounts that were not withheld. In fact, in some states employers are fined for failing to withhold wages in accordance with a proper order. This type of order can be used in several types of proceedings including divorce, paternity, and separation and is useful because it can be instituted in the shortest possible time frame.
In cases in which the person ordered to pay child support is an employee who has state and/or federal taxes withheld from his pay and a refund is generally due, it is possible to intercept either a state or federal refund. It is available to AFDC and non-AFDC parents. Although this process is not realistic against all delinquent parents (because of various procedural obstacles and eligibility requirements), it has proved to be valuable recourse for those custodial parents who are owed support and when delinquent parents meet the intercept requirements.
If a delinquent parents owns real property (i.e., a home or real estate) or has a valuable asset (e.g.,a car), it may be possible to “attach” the property (which means to “hold” it to secure the debt) and ultimately to have it taken and sold to pay the debt. This requires a court proceeding but is relatively straightforward as long as valuable and marketable assets can be found. Similar to an attachment, alien can be placed on real or personal property, which prevents it from being sold until the lien is satisfied (and thereby discharged). These are useful in those cases in which wage assignment or withholding was not possible but the delinquent parent does have assets that can be found.
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