The Different Methods of Enforcing Child Support Orders

The Different Methods of Enforcing Child Support Orders

Enforcement by Seizing or Withholding Income & Assets

When someone has become delinquent regarding their child support payments, the party who is supposed to receive child support can get the government to seize the noncompliant party’s income and property.

Pennsylvania courts are empowered to enforce child support orders using the following methods:

  • Wage attachment: This lets someone garnish the obligor’s earnings to satisfy a child support debt. A person’s wages or salary can be diverted to paying child support before the employee can deposit them in their bank.
  • Freezing financial accounts: Liens can be attached to retirement, pension, and profit-sharing accounts and used to satisfying child support obligations.
  • Intercepting tax refunds: If the IRS or Pennsylvania Department of Revenue owes you a tax refund, part of your refund can be redirected to fulfill outstanding child support debts.
  • Seizing lottery winnings: Winnings from the Pennsylvania Lottery that exceed $2,500 can be intercepted and taken to satisfy delinquent child support payments.
  • Property liens: Overdue child support obligations create a lien on all of the noncompliant party’s real property in Pennsylvania. A lien allows creditors

Denying Licenses to Enforce Child Support

A person who has refused or failed to pay child support can have a license revoked or denied as a way of compelling them to comply with their child support obligation, including:

  • Driver’s licenses: Courts can order the Department of Transportation to deny someone their driver’s licenses if they owe three months or more of monthly support payments.
  • Professional licenses: Newly issued or renewed licenses for engaging in a professional practice like law, medicine, or cosmetology can be denied to delinquent child support obligors. This will impair a person’s ability to make a return on investment for their professional training.
  • Recreational licenses: A court can also deny issuance of recreational licenses, such as for fishing and hunting, if the obligor spouse owes more than three months of unpaid support.
  • Passports: When someone’s combined child support arrears total more than $2,500, a person’s U.S. passport may be canceled or denied until they fully pay all their outstanding child support debt.

Contempt of Court

One of the most powerful methods of enforcing child support is using the judicial procedure known as “contempt of court.” Courts have the power to impose fines and imprisonment as a way of vindicating its authority in cases where someone disobeys a valid court order.

A Pennsylvania court can hold someone in contempt on its own accord or at the request of a party. However, contempt proceedings for disobeying a valid child support order are mostly initiated at someone’s request.

Although a person who is found in contempt of court may be arrested and thrown in jail, contempt for unpaid child support is considered a civil rather than criminal proceeding. As a result, criminal due process protections—such as the right to counsel—do not apply to contempt proceedings.

In child support cases, a person’s jail sentence for contempt is usually conditioned upon repayment of outstanding child support. A contemnor can find themselves stuck in jail for as long as they refuse to honor their child support obligations. Thus, the jail sentence for failing to comply with a valid child support order can last for an hour or a week, depending on how stubborn the contemnor feels.

Consult Scaringi Law for Legal Advice

Getting the court’s final divorce decree doesn’t necessarily mark the end of the legal issue between you and your former spouse. Orders for alimony and child support, for example, might remain effective for years after your divorce is decided. Sometimes a party fails to meet their child support obligations over time. For legal advice about such issues and more, you should consult an experienced attorney from Scaringi Law. We are a full-service law firm that works on a variety of issues ranging from divorce to civil rights cases. You can count on us to tenaciously advocate for your legal rights.

Get started by scheduling a free consultation with an attorney at Scaringi Law by calling (717) 775-7195 or completing our online request formtoday.


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