Back child support is unpaid, overdue child support. Unpaid child support payments are also called "arrearages," and a person is "in arrears" if they owe back child support. Courts offer parents several options to enforce child support orders and to collect any back child support they are owed.
Parents in need of back child support can usually have a lawyer file enforcement actions and litigate on their behalf. However, if you do not have, or can't get, legal representation, every state has a Child Support Enforcement Program (CSE), usually in the social services department, department of revenue, or the state Attorney General's office. A state's CSE office can collect back child support only if debt has accumulated and the parent who owes the support (the non-custodial parent) has been sent notice.
States can collect back child support through several methods, including the following:
CSE officials may impose other measures if non-custodial parents don't comply with child support orders. These include the following:
You do not need to use the Child Support Enforcement Program to collect back child support. Most states allow you to file a withholding order on your own, even without a lawyer. If you do not know where your former spouse works, or where he or she lives, you may need to work with CSE officials who can use government resources (for example, social security information) to locate your former spouse and enforce payment. CSE agencies usually charge a small fee to parents who are not on public assistance.
If you wish to pursue liens against property or contempt of court orders to collect back child support, it's wise to hire a lawyer or work with your local CSE agency.
It's difficult to get out of paying back child support. However, in some states and in some cases, child support orders can be modified, which may reduce the amount of back child support owed.
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