Chicago courts are criticized for a poor track record of enforcing child support orders. Parents who openly defy court orders are routinely able to avoid their obligations. Moreover, even parents armed with wage garnishment orders are unable to enforce child support orders because courts often order redundant hearings to re-issue orders prior to executing them.
Before the Great Recession, child support orders were on a nationwide trend toward greater enforcement. However, the reduced tax receipts caused by falling incomes, a drop in business development, and high unemployment forced governments to enact emergency budget cuts. The result was substantially reduced budgets for the courts, including enforcement of child support orders.
Factors that Make Enforcement Difficult
The hardest cases to enforce involve parents who do one of the following:
- Move frequently
- Change jobs often
- Underreport their income (usually for self-employed individuals)
The more the other parent dodges their obligation, the more expensive it becomes for the person with primary parental responsibility. The latter faces the Hobbesian choice of spending more money to enforce child support orders; this, in turn, detracts from the parent’s ability to pay for expenses for their child. The financial pressure eventually persuades many parents to forego enforcing child support.
Illinois is notorious for its slow enforcement and a general unwillingness to follow up on child support orders with enforcement. Illinois, like all states, receives federal funds to assist parents in locating “deadbeat” parents and enforcing child support orders. Illinois uses the funds to establish paternity and compel noncustodial parents to pay child support. However, the enforcement window can sometimes drag into years. Some cases last so long that the minor child reaches 18 and the support order is rendered moot.
Enforcement for Failure to Pay Child Support
The government is armed with formidable weapons if the parent foregoes
. The standard recourse is to set a wage garnishment order. Wage garnishment automatically deducts the owed child support from the parent’s paycheck and remits it to the State Disbursement Unit, which forwards it to the appropriate parent.
If a parent hides income, the government is permitted to withhold federal tax returns, suspend their driver’s license, hunting license, place a lien against their property, and more. However, the goal is to collect child support. Therefore, the government is loath to pursue policies that could undermine the economic viability of the parent.