What is Enforcement?

There are legal steps you can take if a parent who is obligated to pay child support under the terms of a court or government agency order stops making payments. Under the Child Support Enforcement Act of 1984, district attorneys (D.A.s) or state’s attorneys must help a parent collect child support. Federal laws allow the interception of tax refunds to enforce child support orders. Other methods of enforcement include wage attachments, seizing property or — in some states — revoking the paying parent’s driver’s license.

Courts are very strict about the enforcement of child support. When a payer falls behind, the overdue amount is called “arrearage” and the payer is said to be “in arrears”. If a payer finds him or herself in arrears, he or she can always ask a judge for a reduction of child support payments. However, only future payments can be reduced. The payer is still obligated to pay the arrearages in full, at no reduced amount, and the court will enforce such payments.

Child Support and Bankruptcy

Child support debt is one of those few debts that cannot be discharged by bankruptcy. Child support payments are intended to help care for children and as such are public policy issue. The public policy is meant to not allow parents to use bankruptcy to get out of providing support for their children.

Wage Garnishment and the Federal Government

Title III of the Consumer Credit Protection Act limits the amount of an employee’s earnings that may be garnished and protects an employee from being fired if pay is garnished for only one debt. Title III is administered by the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment Standards Administration. The Wage and Hour Division has no other authority with regard to garnishments. The law protects everyone receiving personal earnings, i.e., wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses, or other income — including earnings from a pension or retirement program. Tips are generally not considered earnings for the purposes of the wage garnishment law. The law applies in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and all U.S. territories and possessions.

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