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How Is Child Support Enforced?

After an Indiana couple files for divorce, each person retains a legal obligation to support their children. One decision that courts make during a divorce is to determine which parent has primary custody over a child, and which parent is primarily responsible for paying child support.

Unfortunately, many parents fail to pay court-ordered child support—leading to financial hardship for the child and his or her parent. However, strict Indiana laws are making it more difficult for these parents to avoid making these payments.

What Is Child Support?

Child support refers to the ongoing financial support that a parent is legally required to provide for their children. While both parents must provide support after a divorce, the court often requires the non-custodial parent—or the parent who does not live with the child as often as the other—to make monthly child support payments. Child support is intended to pay for multiple expenses, including the following.

  • Educational expenses
  • Food, shelter, and clothing
  • Medical expenses and health insurance
  • Transportation

Indiana determines child support payments based on each parent’s weekly gross income, which may include wages, commissions, bonuses, and other sources of income. The court does not include means-tested public assistance in its calculations. If a parent does not pay his or her child support on time, he or she can face penalties.

How Indiana Enforces Child Support

Once a court establishes a child support order, the non-custodial parent must pay for it. However, not all parents uphold this financial obligation. In these situations, the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) may use any of the following methods to enforce child support payments.

  • Wage garnishment: One of the most common child support enforcement tools is wage garnishment. The custodial parent and DCS may request an income withholding order, which deducts child support payments directly from the non-custodial parent’s paycheck.
  • Federal tax refund interception: When a delinquent parent submits a tax return, the DCS may intercept his or her refund. The state will then deduct money from the refund to pay for late or missing child support installments.
  • Passport restrictions: If a parent fails to pay child support on time, he or she may be unable to travel outside of the country. The DCS may ask the court to submit an order that prevents the non-custodial parent from renewing his or her passport.
  • License suspension and revocation: In addition to passport restrictions, a delinquent parent may receive a driver’s license suspension or revocation. If the non-custodial parent holds a professional license, the DCS may submit a revocation order until he or she makes payments.
  • Contempt of court penalties: If the above enforcement tools do not work, a custodial parent can ask for a court order to hold the delinquent parent in contempt of the court. These charges are very serious and can lead to fines or jail time for the non-custodial parent.

What to Do If Your Spouse Won’t Pay Child Support

If a court orders a parent to make child support payments, he or she must comply with the order. Failure to do so not only causes harm to the child but could result in serious penalties for the delinquent parent. If your spouse fails to pay child support, it is important to speak to an Indiana child custody lawyer as soon as possible.

An attorney can help you understand your options for child support enforcement and request the court or DCS to levy the appropriate tools. Contact a divorce lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your case and legal options.