Woman sitting with family law attorney

How to Enforce Child Support Awards & Potential Penalties

Child support is the obligation of both parents, but it is the non-custodial parent who is required to pay the custodial parent a certain amount each month (or on a more frequent basis depending on parties’ pay schedules). Child support is intended to meet the needs of the child or children and is supposed to cover basic needs like food, shelter, and clothing.

Unfortunately, failure to pay child support happens and results in significant financial hardship for the custodial parent and the children. Due to a job loss or for a variety of other reasons, sometimes a non-custodial parent falls behind on their child support obligations as well as add-on expenses for healthcare, childcare, educational or extracurricular expenses.

If you are owed child support, you have several options to enforce the court order or agreement. The law takes defaults in child support obligations seriously and provides a way for custodial parents to collect and imposes harsh penalties on the parent who has failed to pay their obligations. 

Enforcing Child Support Awards in New York

In every county throughout the state of New York, there are child support enforcement units or support collection units that collect and process the payments of many child support obligations. When someone falls behind, support collection can pursue non-compliant parents. If you are owed partial or full child support payments that are overdue, then applying for child support services is one of the first steps you should take.

When the support collection unit gets involved, they have a number of tools to help them get overdue payments to custodial parents, including:

  • Income execution (garnishment)
  • Income tax refund intercept
  • Unemployment benefits intercept
  • Lottery winnings intercept
  • Credit bureau reporting
  • Suspension of driver’s license
  • Passport restrictions
  • Liens
  • Professional license restrictions

These actions are often successful at “persuading” delinquent parents to get back on track with their payments. Unfortunately, they don’t always work. When they don’t, the support collection can aid you in taking action to the next level.

Enforcement Actions

If you could not get relief from your county enforcement agency, or if the non-custodial parent may be difficult to garnish wages, your next course of action would be to file an enforcement action in Family Court or with the Supreme Court (divorce court). Sometimes the support collection unit will file a petition on your behalf (although they will not represent you in court or provide an attorney for support matters). Other times, before they have been involved, you should file a petition with an attorney to make sure that enforcement is pursued properly.

The action is called a violation petition and may allow the court to take enforcement actions similar to the support collection unit, but can also find a party in contempt of court. 

Actions the Court may take include:

  • Committing a party to jail for up to 6 months (which may include weekend only jail so they can continue working)
  • Issuing a money judgment against the non-compliant parent
  • Placing liens on the non-compliant parent’s property

If the court finds that a non-compliant person willfully failed to pay child support when they had enough resources to do so, the court can order them to pay attorney’s fees and court costs. Willful refusal to pay for court-mandated child support is likely to result in the possibility of jail time.

Failure to pay child support causes much financial disruption in the lives of many parents and children. If you have not received court-ordered payments or are only receiving partial payments, then consider contacting a family law attorney to help you obtain the resources you need to raise your children.

Need help with child support awards?

Aiello & DiFalco, LLP, provides legal services and consultations in all family law matters, including child support issues. We have handled hundreds of child support cases so we can navigate these issues with our experience.  

Our main office is in Garden City, New York, and we serve clients in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties and New York City. Feel free to call us anytime for a free consultation.