Trying to collect child support arrears can be a challenging process. From working with state agencies, to going to court to enforce an order, it can easily take over a year to obtain payment for outstanding child support. Luckily, there are several sources of aid as well as multiple options available for anyone trying to collect child support arrears.
What Are Child Support Arrears?
Arrears in child support refer to past due child support owed to a custodial parent. Interest on past due support accrues at 10% annually. However, the court may impose additional penalties if payments are outstanding for 30 days or more.
Assigned Arrears – Child Support Assigned To State
Sometimes, the government is providing public assistance to a custodial parent with a child support order. In other cases, the parent may be enrolled in CalWORKS, a welfare program that aids eligible needy California families. For both of these situations, federal law allows the state of California to seek reimbursement from monies the custodial parent is entitled to receive for child support payments. In other words, the parent must assign child support payments, interest, and any back support to the state until the assistance has been repaid.
Child Support Arrears Enforcement Help
In California, the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) is the state agency responsible for child support enforcement. Each county in California has a local DCSS office that can help parents establish parentage and child support orders and collect the support owed. In the case of unpaid support, DCSS will send the payee parent several notices to become current with the child support arrears.
DCSS has several ways to collect child support, including:
- Withholding wages from paychecks;
- Bank levies (attaching bank accounts);
- Interception of state or federal income tax refunds;
- Garnishing unemployment benefits;
- Attaching workers’ compensation benefits;
- Assignment of state disability benefits;
- Collecting against lottery winnings;
- License suspensions;
- Levies on property; and
- Passport denial
DCSS also offers a Compromise of Arrears Program (COAP) to parents unable to pay outstanding child support balances. If the state supported the family via public assistance during the time of child support payment, the obligated parent may be eligible for the COAP. If eligible, the parent can offer a compromise repayment to the state. The reduction on arrears and interest owed will be based on the obligated parent’s income and assets.
However, if the payee parent refuses to comply with paying the arrears, DCSS may request quasi-criminal contempt charges against them. Then, once the state is involved, the agency will be responsible for retrieving payments and sending them to the custodial parent.
The Downsides of DCSS
Unfortunately, using DCSS can delay the process of collecting child support payments. For example, a parent with a child support order can immediately establish a wage garnishment if they know where the other parent is working. In this case, all child support payroll assignment monies are processed from the employer through the DCSS.
However, DCSS does not have to prepare the required court documents to initiate a wage assignment. Instead, a parent can initiate a payroll assignment by preparing and filing the necessary wage assignment documents with the court. This process is faster than using DCSS as they usually have thousands of other cases at hand. In fact, it often takes them four to six months to submit the request for wage garnishment to the court.
Additionally, DCSS’ services could delay a parent who needs to establish paternity and a support order. In fact, DCSS could easily take six to eight months to get started on this process. Alternatively, the custodial parent could file the necessary paperwork with the court and get the process started right away!
Using a Registered Legal Document Assistant to Quicken the Process
For these reasons, in many instances using a registered legal document assistant such as A People’s Choice to help you prepare the necessary documentation to collect child support arrears is much faster. Plus, we can help you establish a new child support order so you can start receiving child support as quickly as possible.
How to Get Child Support Arrears Paid
Whether you use DCSS or a legal document assistant for help collecting unpaid child support, you may want to use one of the following strategies to obtain arrears:
- If the non-paying parent works, you may be able to get a wage assignment to collect unpaid, owed child support.
- If they receive unemployment payments, you can request a portion of their unemployment benefits to be withheld to pay an outstanding support order.
- You may request for a lien to be placed against the non-paying parent’s real property or request the court to impose imprisonment as a result of outstanding support.
Using a QDRO
Finally, you can also use a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) to collect child support arrears. A QDRO allows the custodial parent to tap into existing retirement benefit accounts of the non-paying parent.
In order to be eligible, the custodial parent will have to prove in court that the non-paying parent owes child support. Then, they can prepare a QDRO for a judge to sign to enforce payment of the past due support through the 401K or other retirement account. Note that a QDRO requires extensive research to determine how much money is in the retirement account. In fact, requesting a QDRO may be futile if the retirement account is not adequately funded.
A People’s Choice Can Help
Whether you’re considering using a QDRO or another strategy to collect child support arrears, A People’s Choice can help you. Contact us today for more information on our legal document preparation services and to learn how we can make this process easier for you.