What can I do if my spouse refuses to pay child support?

What are the options if child support is not paid on time or in full?

Where child support is agreed to in a separation agreement, or ordered by the court, and then not paid, there are a number of remedies to secure enforcement of the agreement or court order:

  • If the child support is set up in a contractual agreement, the basic remedy is suit for breach of the contract, which would include a claim for the arrearages.
  • If child support is payable under a court order, the order is enforceable through the contempt powers of the court.

The Child Support Enforcement Agency is a government agency which works with custodial parents to obtain child support. Private attorneys also assist custodial parents in the collection of child support.

A number of remedies are available for the enforcement of child support including:

  • seizure of real estate and personal property,
  • orders that bonds be posted,
  • assignment of wages,
  • garnishment,
  • arrest and
  • interception of income tax refunds.

The Child Support Enforcement Agency does not require payment of its fees in advance and it is the most cost efficient mechanism for the collection of child support by those who are unable to pay the fees required by private attorneys.

There are also criminal remedies that might be available to you for collecting child support. One of these remedies is found in North Carolina General Statutes section 14-322 which protects neglected and abandoned children. Under this criminal statute, if a parent willfully neglects or refuses to provide adequate support for his or her biological or adopted child, that parent is guilty of a misdemeanor and may be fined up to $500, imprisoned up to six months, or both. The parent may also be required to pay child support to the abandoned minor.

Protection for illegitimate children is available through North Carolina General Statutes section 49-2, which also makes neglect and failure to provide support a misdemeanor. Title IV-D of the Social Security Act 42 USC, sections 651-667, created a federal child support enforcement program which mandates that every state adopt a plan meeting certain standards for the collection of child support.

One of the program’s goals is to secure reimbursement, from the non-custodial parent, for public assistance disbursed through Aid to Families with Dependent Children (“AFDC”). In compliance with federal law, North Carolina has instituted its own child support enforcement program under our Department of Human Resources (“DHR”). The relevant statutory provisions are found in Chapter 110 of the North Carolina General Statutes.

Local units operating under the auspices of DHR, generally found within the county department of social services, bring child support actions primarily for AFDC recipients. However, those not on AFDC may get the same help upon application and the payment of a nominal application fee. Although the local DHR unit may charge you certain other costs as well as its legal fees and recover the amount out of the support payments collected, this remedy may provide needed assistance to you if you cannot afford to retain a private attorney to represent you in seeking or collecting child support payments.

A possible disadvantage to using the public Child Support Enforcement Agency is that the bureaucracy is overburdened and cases may move very slowly.

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