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Unpaid Child Support


Children have the right to be financially supported by both parents after divorce. The Association for the Enforcement of Child Support (ACES) estimates 30 million children in the U.S. are owed more than $41 billion in unpaid child support. Delinquent child support payments are a serious problem and can devastate custodial parents and children.

Child Support Orders

Parents of minor children are legally obligated to provide financial support, usually until the child is an independent adult. If a child is in college or disabled, child support or college child support usually may be ordered past the age of 18. For a child on active military duty or legally adopted by someone else, child support generally stops.

Child support is often calculated using state specific formulas that usually take income, time spent with the children, living expenses and other child support factors into consideration. The primary caregiver of the child generally receives child support payments from the other parent, independent of child custody.

After child support is calculated, the divorce court issues a child support order. The child support order directs one parent to make regular child support payments in the specified amount to the other parent. If a parent doesn't make the ordered payments, they may face legal consequences through child support.

Child support orders are generally not automatic, so parents petition the court for a child support order after separation or the birth of a child out of wedlock. Child support payments are not enforceable until a court order is in place. Unmarried mothers may need the court to order paternity testing before a child support order can be issued.

Collecting Unpaid Child Support

When a child support order is in place and child support is not paid, the primary caregiver of the child may take steps to enforce the order. If children are under the age of 18, or the child support order was issued before they turned 18, your state child support enforcement agency can help collect unpaid child support.

Under the Revised Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (RURESA), child support can be collected from a parent who lives out of state. The court that issues the child support order may contact the court in the state in which the delinquent parent lives and demand payment of past-due child support.

If a parent refuses to pay child support, the court may order different types of child support enforcement until the unpaid child support debt is satisfied. Deadbeat parents may be jailed for unpaid child support.

Contact a Divorce Lawyer

If you are owed unpaid child support, contact a local divorce lawyer to discuss your child support enforcement options. Connect with a divorce attorney near you by calling 877-349-1310 or filling out divorce case review form to get started. Work with a divorce lawyer to start protecting your child's future.

Case Evaluation

The above summary of unpaid child support is by no means all-inclusive and is not intended to serve as legal advice. Laws may have changed since our last update. For the latest information on child support laws, speak to a local divorce lawyer in your state.