How to Enforce a Child Support Order

Today, more and more custodial parents entitled to child support (payees) are looking for ways to enforce child support orders against delinquent non-custodial parents (payors). For many, this undertaking can seem difficult and time consuming. However, in Virginia, there are a variety of ways to collect unpaid child support. Payees can use the Division of Child Support Enforcement, or file an action in the court that entered the initial child support order. Some of the most common ways to enforce a child support obligation are discussed below.

1. Liens: The Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) has authority to pursue liens on behalf of payees entitled to unpaid child support. By filing a lien action in court, the DCSE can ensure that any money received by a delinquent parent from a court judgment is directly garnished to satisfy the child support obligation. In addition, the DCSE can obtain a lien on the payor’s bank account to garnish any money that is in the account.

2. Withholding Wages: Pursuant to Virginia Code Section 20-79.1, a court can order a delinquent payor’s employer to directly withhold a portion of the payor’s income. The amount withheld can include child support payments that are currently due as well as any unpaid payments. In order for a payee to obtain a withholding order, the payor must be at least one month behind in payments and a notice of arrears must be filed with the court.

3. Interception of Tax Returns: Both state and Federal laws permit the DCSE to seize any tax return owed to a delinquent payor and apply those funds to any child support payments in arrears. However, if the payor filed a joint tax return (if he or she is (re)married to someone else) there will be a six-month delay to allow the joint filer time to claim his or her portion of the tax return.

4. Qualified Domestic Relations Order: Retirement accounts are not frequently used to satisfy child support obligations. However, these accounts can be lucrative and one of the only assets owned by a payor. By obtaining a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO), a payee will be able to access the funds in a delinquent payor’s retirement account. A QDRO is a court order that requires employers to segregate a delinquent payor’s retirement account to pay a portion of that account to a third party – in this case, the parent entitled to unpaid child support.

5. Suspension of Licenses: Virginia law permits courts to suspend the driver’s, professional or recreational licenses of parents who have failed to pay child support. If a payor owes $5,000 or more in unpaid child support or is delinquent for a period of 90 days or more, the payee entitled to support payments may file a petition with the court asking that the payor’s driver’s, professional or recreational license be suspended. A payor served with such a petition will have 30 days to pay the amount of child support owed or enter into a repayment agreement. If the delinquent payor fails to do so, the court can enter an order suspending the driver’s, professional or recreational license(s) until the payor makes a full or substantial payment towards the child support in arrears.

If you have a child support enforcement issue in Virginia, you should speak with an experienced family lawyer as soon as possible. The family lawyers of DiPietro Family Law Group, PLLC are experienced with child support issues in jurisdictions across Northern Virginia and Washington, DC. Contact us today at (703) 370 – 5555.

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