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Pursuing Child Support Arrears

broken heart separating a family with child support words on top

Child support is essential to the health and well-being of children following divorce. When a parent refuses to shoulder this responsibility, it creates a significant burden for the primary parent and the children. In Illinois, there are several mechanisms in place that help protect children and help parents collect child support arrears.

broken heart separating a family with child support words on top

Nationwide, it is estimated that 37.5 million primary parents are owed child support arrears. Up to 25 million of these parents receive no support from the non-custodial parent. It is estimated that 59% of parents who do not receive child support have child support orders in place. Thus, it is a common issue that parents across the country grapple with as they seek to meet the needs for healthcare, housing, clothing, food, and education of their children.

National Child Support Enforcement Program

The program can help locate non-custodial parents who are attempting to hide from their child support responsibilities. The program works in conjunction with the Division of Child Support Services within the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. Once a child support order is recorded with the agency, they will monitor payments and can help pursue court-ordered child support. DCSS can initiate collections activity and garnish any public assistance benefits the non-custodial parent is receiving.

Garnishing Wages

If a non-custodial parent refuses to pay, it may be necessary to initiate a wage garnishment. To that end, the DCSS will serve a Withholding for Support directly to the individual’s employer. This order will stay in effect until the arrearage is satisfied and the individual becomes current with their child support obligations. If the individual has the means, it is possible for them to make a lump sum payment to end the garnishment immediately. The state may intercept federal and state tax refunds and apply these to any amounts that are due.

Assessing Interest to Arrears

Illinois statutes entitle primary parents to receive interest at the rate of 9% per year on child support arrears whether the arrearage stem from temporary or permanent orders. Interest on past-due child support is mandatory and accrues from the date a payment is due, When payments on child support arrearages are made, these payments are applied towards the accrued interest before funds are applied to the principal.

It is important to remember that each month child support is owed is considered a different judgment. As such, interest must be calculated for each missed payment.

Punishments for Failure to Pay

Individuals in Illinois who fail to pay child support can face serious penalties and sanctions. For example, the DCSS can request that an individual’s professional licenses be suspended or revoked. If an individual is delinquent in their obligations by 90 days or greater, the state may limit or revoke their driving privileges. Moreover, individuals may also be prohibited from receiving hunting/fishing licenses, their passport may be revoked, and they may face the seizure of property or possessions to cover their child support arrearages.

In addition to these penalties, individuals who owe more than $5,000, or who have been delinquent for a period greater than six months may be subject to fines and imprisonment. The state classifies these as a misdemeanor. If the individual owes more than $20,000, they may be subject to felony prosecution.

It is not possible to deny a non-custodial parent their parenting time because of child support arrearages. Doing so can have serious consequences for the primary parent.

Documentation & Record Keeping

It is crucial to properly document any payments that are received and any arrears that are owed. To this end, primary parents should never accept cash payments for child support. Canceled checks and money orders should be recorded and stored so that the payment history can be established. These should be clearly marked as being for child support.

Moreover, primary parents should also keep receipts for expenses and any burdens that the non-payment of child support has created. This documentation is crucial as it demonstrates the needs and expenses of the child and the steps the primary parent is taking to meet those needs. Further, any written or verbal communication with the non-custodial parent regarding child support should be recorded and saved by an individual’s child support attorney as this demonstrates the attempts at collecting the arrears. This information can be reviewed by the DCSS and used to determine the appropriate course of action for collecting any arrears.

Statute of Limitations

In Illinois, there is no statute of limitations on collecting child support arrears. As such, individuals may be held accountable for their child support obligations long after a child has reached adulthood. Moreover, parents seeking child support for children with disabilities must seek modification of orders prior to the child reaching the age of majority. Unless requested and granted by the court, primary parents will not be able to pursue additional support or any arrearages that may accrue without this modification in place.

Uncontested divorce lawyer Denise Erlich is passionate about helping divorcing couples in the greater Chicagoland area transition to their new life as seamlessly as possible. Ms. Erlich patiently guides her clients through every step of the divorce process and provides clients with candid advice about their case and legal options, so they can make informed decisions about their future.

Years of Experience: More than 20 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois
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