1. News & Issues
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Child Support Enforcement - Tips on Pursuing Child Support Enforcement

Expert Provides Advice on Enforcement of Child Support When a Deadbeat Won't Pay

By

Updated March 29, 2010
One of the most contentious aspects of divorce is the issue of child support. A custodial parent who is awarded child support by the court may initially believe that the final hurdle has been crossed and she/he can finally breathe a sigh of relief. But a child support order, though legally binding, does not necessarily translate into cash in hand. When a deadbeat parent -- usually the father -- avoids paying court-ordered child support, child support enforcement is the next step.

Denied Billions, Children are the Victims

According to DivorceLawInfo.com:
This is a serious problem of national dimensions. A recent study found that less than half the parents awarded child support receive payment in full. In 1989 alone, $4 billion dollars that was owed in child support was not paid. This failure on the part of non-custodial parents - usually but not always fathers - is a major cause of poverty in children.
Every state and territory in the U.S. has a child support enforcement agency or program. Enforcement relies on a federal/state/local partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Child Support Enforcement (OSCE) overseeing the state agencies which are responsible for going after the deadbeat parent.

How big an issue is child support enforcement? OSCE figures from 2007 indicate that the total caseload that year was 15.8 million, with 1.2 million new support orders established. That year, federal funding to the states to defray the cost of enforcement amounted to $3.7 billion.

An Overlooked Women's Issue

Enforcing child support orders is a costly endeavor, but it's not a topic that receives much notice in the mainstream media. And with fathers usually responsible for child support payments, when those payments are not made it is single mothers and their children who suffer. Because non-payment of child support is a major cause of childhood poverty, child support enforcement is a women's issue. Yet it has never been a top priority of any of the leading national women's rights and women's advocacy organizations.

One outspoken advocate of child support enforcement is Sophie Vorburger, President of the National Child Support Foundation and CEO of WantedDeadbeats.com, a website which provides information and resources to parents fighting to get their court support award paid. She estimates that $772 billion in unpaid child support is owed to children in the U.S.

As someone who has learned from personal experience, Vorburger advises parents negotiating the ins and outs of enforcing child support to learn as much as possible and not assume that attorneys, agencies or the courts will be able to compel a deadbeat parent to pay.

Child Support - Myth vs. Reality

As she notes, the myth surrounding child support is very different from the harsh reality of what happens when a parent ignores the court order. The myth is simple and easily outlined. The reality is considerably more complex.

The myth:

  • You will have your day in court.
  • There will be a day of reckoning for your ex.
  • When you go to court you'll get justice.
  • The judge will make him/her pay.
  • It will be a swift process.
The reality? In some cases, none of the above.

What follows are Vorburger's observations of the child support enforcement process, based on first-hand knowledge gleaned from working with hundreds of women in this situation:

Not every non-custodial parent pays what was court ordered . While there are many responsible fathers, there are also many deadbeats.

Some judges are tough, but many are lenient. Those who allow the deadbeat too much slack contribute to the problem by permitting delays and even a lack of due process in some cases.

Child support enforcement is time consuming and very frustrating. Motions are made, answers are required, and as you wait for your day in court your assets are depleting or no longer existent It can be expensive if  you use a lawyer. It is possible to do it pros-se (by yourself) and educate yourself on your rights.

You are your own best private investigator.

There are as many different ways of avoiding payment as there are deadbeats. They run the gamut from the very sophisticated white collar professional to the construction worker. A few of the classic child support evasion tactics include:

  • placing everything under someone else’s name close to you
  • using shell corporations to hide assets
  • working under the table
  • hiding your millions then taking a low paying job
  • moving to a different state
The truth is if that if the deadbeat wants to play games, you are in for a long haul. Even if you are successful in eventually getting him punished and incarcerated, you will rarely get the full amount of arrears owed to you and  your children.

Tips from an Expert

Vorburger's advice to women pursing enforcement of a child support order is simple and straightforward:
  • Get a coach who can walk you through the process and educate you.
  • Know what you want. If it is not clear to you, it will likely not be to the judge or anyone else.
  • Be consistent.
  • Keep a journal.
  • Educate yourself on the law.
  • Become your own private investigator.
  • Do not make this the center of your life. Gather your ducks till you can put them in a row, and try to keep family life as normal as possible.

Sources:
"Child Support Issues." DivorceLawInfo.com. Retrieved 22 March 2010.
"Office of Child Support Enforcement (OSCE) Fact Sheet." U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, Office of Public Affairs. January 2009.
Sophie Vorburger interview conducted via email. March 2010.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.