What to Do When Child Support Payments are Behind

After a divorce or the separation of unmarried parents, parents and children need to adjust to a new way of life. Both parents are expected to provide for their children after a divorce. Child support is generally made part of a court order at the time of the divorce or entry of orders establishing legal decision-making (custody) and parenting time (visitation). Usually, support payments are made from one parent to the other, often on a monthly basis, by wage garnishment. Unfortunately, sometimes payments are delayed or stop completely, leaving the parent without the funds necessary to pay for their child’s expenses. Parents need to know what to do when child support payments are behind.

Steps to Take

There are some steps a parent can take to resolve non-payment of child support. The parent must submit a petition for enforcement of child support orders. This petition includes information about what the order states with respect to support and alleges facts regarding the non-payment of support.  The order must be served on the party who is failing to pay support. Ultimately, the court will likely set a hearing to determine if support has been paid and, if not, why not, and then impose consequences to ensure payment begins again.

Remedies of Enforcement

A parent that has failed to provide child support payments that are part of a court order are subject to various penalties. There are several different remedies that may be imposed, depending on the situation. Remedies may be state, federal, or criminal in nature. Some of the most common remedies include:

  • Wage Garnishing
  • Withholding Income Tax Refund
  • Seizure of Assets
  • Property Liens
  • Reports to Credit Bureaus
  • Suspension of Driver’s License
  • Withholding Passport
  • Court Referral
  • Criminal Prosecution

Some remedies, such as credit reporting and license/passport suspension, are only available if a petition is filed through the State’s Child Support Services office.  Otherwise, the Court can order a wage garnishment, lump sum payment, or contempt (i.e. jail time until a certain amount of the amount owed is paid).  .

Legal Assistance

In cases where child support is behind, the custodial parent may have many questions and concerns. One of the best ways to begin to resolve the problem is with help from a qualified family law attorney. Your lawyer will review your situation and provide you with options to help you get back child support. Do not wait too long to try to seek answers, because the amount of owed support will continue to increase, making it more difficult to recover.

Your children deserve to receive the required support from their parents. If your former spouse is behind in child support, you may need to get legal help. Contact the compassionate lawyers at Udall Shumway PLC to discuss your situation.


This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding When Child Support Payments are Behind, or other family law issues, please feel free to contact Barry C. Dickerson at 480.461.5300, log on to udallshumway.com, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools, and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.