Enforcing a Child Support Order
How does OCSE collect child support?
OCSE has numerous tools available to assist custodial parents in collecting current child support and arrearages associated with support. One of the primary tools or methods is to attach the wages of the noncustodial parent through income withholding. OCSE can also file property liens, report child support debts to credit agencies, and suspend driver's and other licenses, intercept income tax refunds, prepare your case for court action, and petition another state for assistance when needed. This list below contains some of the actions OCSE can take to enforce support.
- Attach wages through income withholding orders
- Attach unemployment compensation
- Attach workmen's compensation (Labor & Industries)
- Attach pensions not protected under federal law
- Attach non-earned funds payable to the noncustodial parent
- Attach settlements as the result of lawsuits
- Attach insurance claims
- Attach funds in financial institutions
- File liens with county auditors where real or personal property is located
- File liens against vehicles licensed with the Department of Revenue
- Seize property held in safety deposit boxes
- Seize vehicles or other personal property for sale at public auction
- Request the suspension of drivers, professional, and recreational licenses
- Refer cases for contempt of court action
- Attach federal IRS income tax refunds and other federal payable funds
- Request that the U.S. State Department deny the issuance of a passport
- Report debt to credit reporting agencies
- Offset state income tax refunds
- Refer cases to other states where the noncustodial parent resides for establishment or enforcement
Federal and state law require that OCSE wait until a certain amount of debt is reached before OCSE takes some actions, such as license suspension and tax offset certification. While OCSE cannot guarantee its success or collections, OCSE representatives will utilize all available enforcement actions to attempt to obtain the support to which your child is entitled.
What are the time frames for OCSE to take action on a case?
Time frames vary and each case is different. One of the most important steps that OCSE must take with almost every action is to serve the noncustodial parent with advance notice of the action. This is a legal requirement and allows the noncustodial parent "due process" to contest or appeal the action. Since many people move frequently and some people deliberately try to avoid being served with a notice of action, this often requires a long time to accomplish.
I do not know where the noncustodial parent is living. Can OCSE find him/her?
OCSE has many automated locate sources available for its use; however, you, as the custodial parent, are one of the best resources for information about a noncustodial parent, since you may learn of addresses, assets, or employment from friends and family before that information is available to OCSE through its sources. The more you take an active role in getting information to your caseworker, the more success you will have in obtaining regular and full child support payments for your children. OCSE staff uses locate sources available in OCSE offices. They are not able to physically search for individuals. Even with its sources and with your help, OCSE may still not be able to find a noncustodial parent. Some people are determined not to be found and may use extreme measures not to be located.
When does OCSE refer a case for court action?
OCSE has strong administrative methods to establish and enforce support orders, and usually refers cases for court action only when those administrative methods have been unsuccessful.
What happens after a noncustodial parent's debt is certified for interception of federal or state refunds?
In order for OCSE to receive any tax funds from this process, the noncustodial parent must be entitled to a refund due them from a tax return they have previously filed. For federal certification, a child must be under 18 during the tax year and the debt amount must be at least $500, unless the debt is owed to the State for public assistance benefits paid on behalf of a child. The noncustodial parent will receive a notice from the federal Department of Treasury stating that the funds will be sent to OCSE about 60 days before OCSE actually receives the funds. Once the funds are received the collection amount is applied to the debt. If the funds are received as a result of a joint return being filed with the IRS, the funds are held up to six months by OCSE before they are disbursed to the custodial parent to allow for possible claims to be filed that might require OCSE to return the funds to the source. If there is a debt owed to the State for public assistance benefits paid on behalf of a child, the collection must be applied to that State debt first. Debt amounts must be at least $100 in order to certify for state tax offset. Noncustodial parents will receive a separate notice from the State of Arkansas regarding the offset of a tax refund due them.
If the noncustodial parent receives Social Security benefits, can OCSE still collect support for me?
OCSE can usually assist a custodial parent in the collection of support from Social Security disability benefits, but SSI benefits cannot be attached for the payment of child support. Some courts may choose not to enter an order if a noncustodial parent receives Social Security benefits. Also, some courts may credit a lump sum paid to the dependents by the Social Security Administration toward the noncustodial parent's arrearage.
The noncustodial parent works sporadically and is paid in cash. Wage withholding won't work for me. What will?
Automatic billing, telephone reminders, and past due notices from OCSE might convince the noncustodial parent to make regular payments. Other methods - such as property attachment, credit bureau reporting, tax refund offset, garnishment, liens and suspension of occupational, professional, driver's licenses or recreational licenses - might work for the arrearages. If none of these are successful, OCSE may take the case to court for stronger enforcement methods.
The noncustodial parent has moved several times because of job relocation. Can wage withholding work in this case?
Yes. States must recognize the wage withholding orders from other states and continue the wage withholding as ordered, without regard to where the noncustodial parent or the custodial parent and children live. Also, State and Federal law now requires an employer to report within 20 days hiring any employee who fills out a W-4 form whether full time, part time, or student worker.
My children's noncustodial parent is retired from the military. Can military retirement checks be garnished for back child support?
Yes, it is possible to garnish the wages of active, reserve, and retired members of the military and Federal government civilian employees.
What if the noncustodial parent is in another state?
The most difficult child support cases to enforce are those in which the noncustodial parent lives in one state and the children in another. Each state has child support offices and an independent court system with varying laws and practices. Arkansas has no control over the child support offices and courts in other states, and therefore must depend on the other state to obtain a court date or to serve notice to the noncustodial parent. OCSE will, however, continue to monitor the case and request periodic updates from the other state on their progress with enforcement and upon request provide information to the custodial parent regarding the other state's activities.
My caseworker sent my case to another state to be worked. That was three months ago, and still no support payments. What's wrong?
It may be a number of things: enforcement officials may not be able to serve notice on the noncustodial parent due to inadequate address information; if a hearing is necessary, it may take a while to get a court date. Generally speaking, a state must complete service of process to begin an action within 90 days of locating the noncustodial parent, and the majority of orders should be established within six months from the date of service of process. Even though states try to be responsive, enforcement agencies have a very high demand for their services. An agency's ability to act rapidly depends on the characteristics of the case, the quality of information received, and the amount of staff and other resources they have to devote to it. Continue to keep in touch with your caseworker to resolve any delay or to provide any new information you may have.
As soon as the noncustodial parent is notified about enforcement, they move. How will I ever be able to collect support?
It is difficult to enforce child support payments when the noncustodial parent intentionally moves to avoid paying. Try to be an active participant in your case. Whenever you learn that the noncustodial parent has moved or has a new job, you should tell your caseworker as soon as possible. OCSE will continue to take every enforcement step available to locate the noncustodial parent and enforce the order for support.
Can my attorney work on my child support problem while I am receiving services from OCSE?
Your attorney can work with OCSE. For best results, the attorney and staff of OCSE should coordinate their efforts to prevent duplication of services and conflicting enforcement decisions.
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