Child Support Enforcement: A Closer Look
Most child support obligees depend heavily on these payments to make their bills. Yet less than half of custodial parents receive their full monthly child support allotments. So, in most cases, child support enforcement is part of post-divorce life. Frequently, enforcement actions are part of modification actions. Sometimes, enforcement actions are standalone proceedings.
Technically, the state attorney general has primary jurisdiction in this area. State law gives the AG the power to collect delinquent child support. The good news for families is that the state has immense resources. So, investigators can usually locate income or assets that an obligor tries to conceal. The bad news is the AG represents the state and not your family. Therefore, these lawyers often use overly-aggressive tactics which result in quick cash but could be like throwing gasoline onto a crackling fire.
A private Beaufort family law attorney is usually a better option in these situations. Attorneys have access to the same legal collection tools as the state. Furthermore, a private lawyer represents you and not the state. So, your lawyer dies what’s best for you, and not what’s best for state politicians. As a bonus, most Beaufort family law attorneys don’t charge upfront legal fees in child support collection matters.
Frequently, short-term financial difficulties, like temporary unemployment or sudden illness, cause obligors to fall behind on child support payments. Regardless of the arrearage, the attorney general frequently uses the most aggressive collection means possible. But in these situations, a lighter touch might be appropriate. Many obligors in these situations want to do the right thing and catch up. They just don’t know how to get started.
Beaufort family law attorneys often send demand letters to these obligors. These letters usually have an overall conciliatory tone and include a not-so-subtle threat. Frequently, these letters demand about half the arrearage upfront and allow the obligor to pay out the remainder. So, obligors get an opportunity to make amends on reasonable terms.
A credit or property lien could be an option as well. Liens have absolutely no immediate impact. Sooner or later, however, the obligor usually tried to sell the property or borrow money. At that point, the obligee has the advantage. The obligee only releases the lien if the obligor makes favorable financial arrangements.
Drivers’ license suspension is a similar option. North Carolina bureaucrats usually suspend driver’s licenses upon proof of nonpayment. A suspension is meaningless until the obligor tries to renew the license or gets pulled over. So, once again, the obligor must eventually deal with the child support arrearage.
The warning shot approach often works well if the obligor is, at most, two or three months behind. A larger arrearage means significant financial hardship for the children. In these situations, the obligee needs money faster.
Frequently, a wage withholding order is just what the doctor ordered in these situations. That’s especially true if the obligor only has regular W-2 income from one, or perhaps two, sources. In North Carolina, a withholding order can take up to half of an obligor’s take-home pay.
Generally, divorce and paternity orders in North Carolina include latent withholding order provisions. A withholding order is available if the obligor falls behind. So, in these cases, there’s no need to go to court and obtain such an order. Obligees must only address technical matters, like addressing the order to the proper entity. Most companies use out-of-state payroll service firms.
If the obligor is full-time self-employed or has significant self-employment income, a simple wage withholding order may not be enough. A Beaufort family law attorney must often take an extra step and levy the obligor’s bank account.
Usually, bank account levies allow obligors to make deposits but not withdrawals. Obligees usually agree to lift the levy if the obligor pays a large chunk of the arrearage and makes payment arrangements on the remainder.
Bank account levies usually involve separate enforcement actions, mostly because attorneys often need to conduct discovery. Obligors in these situations often try to hide income.
If the obligor is seriously delinquent and has ignored prior collection attempts, perhaps by constantly changing jobs, addresses, and/or bank accounts, it’s time to bring out the big guns.
No one wants obligors to go to jail for nonpayment of child support. But if nothing else has worked, judges are usually willing to take this step. That’s especially true if the obligor is an absconder who has never paid anything or owes tens of thousands of dollars.
Debtors’ prison may seem like a bad idea for obligees. After all, if the obligor cannot work, the obligor cannot possibly make payments. However, when their liberty is at stake, it’s amazing how quickly obligors can beg, borrow, or steal the money needed to open the cell door.
Work With a Dedicated Carteret County Lawyer
Most family law matters involve complex emotional and financial issues. For a confidential consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Beaufort, contact Schulz Stephenson Law. After-hours, virtual, and home visits are available.