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Use resources wisely for child and spousal support collection

A study recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau reveals that less than half of custodial parents get the complete amount of child support they are due. About 25 percent receives no child support, despite having formal or informal agreements with noncustodial parents.

When an ex refuses to live up to a court-ordered plan to provide financial help for children, state agencies offer child support enforcement. States are required to help parents collect back-owed support under the Social Security Act of 1975, but collection methods vary.

Most states use several methods to recover unpaid support, including garnishment of a noncustodial parent's wages. Tax refunds, workers' compensation and jobless benefits also may be seized to update delinquent support payments.  

Some states squeeze noncustodial parents for support payments through restrictions. Passport and license suspensions are issued for parents behind on support, including suspensions of licenses to drive and work in a profession.

Non-payment of child support can affect the credit rating of the person who refuses to pay. Support collectors are creditors like any other and unpaid support bills are reported to credit bureaus.

 A state may decide to seize the physical property of a noncustodial parent, including cars and real estate, to bring support payments to current status. A person who breaks a legal agreement to pay child support may be found in considered in contempt of court, resulting in fines or jail time.

While states must provide a collection system for child support, the same is not true for alimony. Former spouses must use the courts to recover unpaid alimony.

Legal experts recommend that divorced individuals, in search of back-owed support payments of any kind, keep careful records of monies that have and have not been paid. Without meticulously documented proof that support is owed, efforts to get money due can fail.

Retaining an experienced family law attorney can prove to be a worthy investment for support collection guidance.

Source:  Forbes, "How Can a Divorcing Woman Get the Child Support, Alimony She is Owed?" Jeff Landers, Dec. 14, 2011

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