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What to Do When an Ex Won’t Pay Child Support

Divorce is never a happy occasion, and when children are involved, it’s even more challenging. One of the most common obstacles is financial difficulties. It’s perfectly normal for single parents to need financial assistance from their exes. That’s why child support exists. But getting child support isn’t always easy or straightforward. If you’re dealing with an ex who isn’t making payments, you need to know your options. Here are the steps to help you resolve the situation.

Have a Conversation

This isn’t always feasible. If talking to your ex represents danger to your or your family, skip this step. If a conversation is possible, it’s the best place to start. Ultimately, the law is behind you. Your role is similar to a landlord asking for a late rent payment in this scenario. If a missed payment can be resolved with a conversation, that’s better for everyone involved — especially you. If talking doesn’t or can’t work, though, there are plenty of options left on the table.

Check the Law

While the law is intended to make child support mandatory, there’s a process to ensuring that it is. Until a court rules that child support is required, your ex does not legally owe anything. Your first step is to make sure you have a shield support order. You also need to understand the terms of that order. If you don’t have an order, or it doesn’t seem to be of much help, your path to resolution is very different than if you do have the order.

Even at this point, legal consultation is advisable. A lawyer can help you organize your information and options and get you on a faster track to resolution.

Regardless of everything in this step, the next step remains the same.

Secure Funding

The assumption here is that the child support payments are important for taking care of the kids. If that’s the case, securing immediate funds is actually more important than going after child support, regardless of how you go about it. It’s likely to take too long to legally force payments out of your ex. Any immediate financial issues will need a different resolution.

The good news is that help is available. Aside from obvious methods to get money, there are programs that are designed to assist you when times are tough. There is a local child support agency in every state. They can help you navigate your local relief programs. Additional programs can help your ex come up with the money to meet their child support commitments. Take full advantage of all of it. When your immediate financial issues have a working plan, you can move on to the next part, and this is where things depend on your court order.

Pursue a Court Order

If you already have a child support court order, move on to the next step. If that hasn’t happened yet, it needs to. Whether you’re working with a lawyer or a child support agency, there’s a bit of a process to getting the court order, and professional help goes a long way. If hiring a lawyer is feasible, it’s the better of the two options. Lawyers have more direct resources that can expedite the process beyond your typical support agency. In either case, the goal is to get the state to back you on child support claims. After that, if your ex doesn’t pay, you’ll be going to the next step.

Enforcement of Child Support

These are the options that can help you get court-ordered money from your ex. The first two options are income withholding and wage garnishment. They are extremely similar. The idea is that the state will automatically withhold child support payments from your ex’s income. These methods are particularly effective if your ex works for the government on any level. The process for procurement will already be in place.

There is an important distinction between withholding and garnishment. Withholding can be applied to collect back payments on child support. Wage garnishment will only collect starting with the date it is implemented. Back payments for late child support are not included.

If income withholding isn’t an option, you can push to get paid from your ex’s assets. This can happen through the forced sale of assets or by putting a lien on property (basically forcing your ex to take a loan to make the payments). Options can escalate from here (including jail time), but they become increasingly difficult to pursue.

If you think any of these options sound promising or necessary, you need legal help. Setzer Law Firm can provide that help and work with you to make sure you’re paid the child support that you are owed.

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