What are My Options if My Ex is Not Paying Child Support?


Child support is a means to help a child of divorced parents experience close to the same standard of living they had when both parents lived in the same home. Courts agree that the best interest of the child should be a top priority throughout the divorce proceedings, and child support is no exception. What happens, however, if the parent responsible for paying the support neglects his or her legal responsibilities and refuses to pay or is not timely with the payments? What recourse does the custodial parent have when this happens?


Ways to Get the Court-Ordered Support Enforced

If your spouse is not paying the court-ordered child support, he or she is breaking the law and there are several ways to attempt to collect the support. The district attorney can ask for a hearing to set up a payment arrangement. If that request is ignored by your ex-spouse, he or she could face time in jail. 


Contact your local child support enforcement agency. They may employ any of the following means to recover child support money that is past-due:


  • Garnish the wages of your ex-spouse
  • Take possession of your ex-spouse’s federal tax refund
  • Repossess property
  • Suspend the driver’s license of your ex-spouse
  • Revoke any professional licenses your ex-spouse may possess


If none of these options are successful, the court may find your ex-spouse in contempt. Your ex-spouse will be required to appear at a court hearing explaining why they are not paying child support. If the court is unhappy with the explanation, or if the non-paying parent fails to show up for the hearing, the court may sentence the non-paying parent to time in jail. This is usually used as a last resort because the parent is not able to earn any income if they are in jail and will not be able to pay child support.


What if the Ex-spouse Files for Bankruptcy?

Child support payments are not dischargeable in a bankruptcy filing. There is no way to eliminate overdue back child support payments.


My Ex-spouse Lost His Job. Does this Excuse Him or Her from Paying Child Support?

If the parent responsible for paying child support becomes unemployed for a period of time, he/she can request to have the amount of child support modified for future payments. This modification does not excuse or reduce any past support that was not paid, only future payments. 


File for Child Support at the Time of Separation

Child support cannot be retroactive. It can only be assigned from the time the parent applies for the support. It is important to file as soon as the parents separate and there is a need for support.


Contact an Attorney

When the court awards sole physical or legal custody of a child to one parent, the other parent is usually required to pay child support to the custodial parent. The custodial parent’s obligations are to take care of the child and maintain the standard of living as best they can. The court will always place the best interests of the child first. If the noncustodial parent is not living up to their financial obligations, contact a lawyer with experience in child support.