Top Five Ways to Collect Past-Due Child Support

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Top Five Ways to Collect Past-Due Child Support

Many obligees count on child support payments to make ends meet every month. Yet over half of obligees do not receive the full amount of payments to which they are entitled. A significant number of these obligees receive little or nothing.

Technically, the state Attorney General has jurisdiction over these matters. The AG charges nothing for enforcement services. As is often the case, you get what you pay for. The Attorney General’s bloated bureaucracy usually moves slowly, so it is easy for obligors to stay one step ahead of the law. Additionally, the Attorney General represents the state. The AG does not represent you or your family.

So, a partnership with a private Chicago family lawyer is often a better idea. The same collection tools are available to private attorneys. Furthermore, a lawyer represents you. That means you call the shots and make the decisions.

Demand Letter

Many people throw away letters from attorneys before they read them. Many others read them over and then promptly throw them away. In these situations, a letter detailing child support delinquency and possible consequences is usually a waste of time.

In other situations, however, these letters are quite effective. Once they fall a few payments behind, some obligors are afraid to come out of the shadows. Others have a legitimate excuse for falling behind and they are willing to make catch-up payments.

The AG often does not send letters, other than account statements. That could mean the AG is skipping an important collection tool. Demand letters often prompt action, and they hardly ever pour gasoline on existing fires.

Credit or Property Lien

Much like a demand letter, a credit or property lien has no immediate effect. Eventually, however, the obligor will try to sell the property or borrow money. At that point, the obligor must deal with the lien. And, the obligee has the upper hand in any negotiations.

In all delinquent child support negotiations, obligors generally agree to pay a certain percentage of the arrearage upfront and pay the remainder over time.

Wage Garnishment

Most child support orders contain latent wage garnishment provisions. Generally, these orders state that the obligee has the right to enforce the wage garnishment order if the obligor is delinquent. Wage garnishment is not just a rather easy step to take. It is also not a shot across the bow. Wage garnishment orders usually generate immediate returns.

These orders are rather straightforward in most cases, but they can be rather complex. Most employers use out-of-state payroll companies. So, obligees must serve the order not on the employer, but on the payroll company. A botched service effort could tip off the obligor and allow him or her to avoid responsibility once again.

Motion to Enforce

Many obligors are self-employed or living off another source of income. In these situations, rather than a wage garnishment order, a legal motion to enforce the obligation is usually a good option.

The judge who entered the current child support order has the ability to enforce it. These matters are not just about evading child support responsibility. They are also about ignoring a court order. That is a very serious matter.


As a first option, incarceration is usually a terrible idea and probably unavailable anyway. But as a last resort, it is an effective item in a collection toolbox. When faced with jail time, many obligors are able to come up with at least some of the money they owe.

Once again, a setoff might be an option. A setoff could enable an owner spouse to retain all or most of the account.

Contact a Hard-Working Attorney

If your ex owes child support, you have legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Chicago, contact Andrea Heckman Law. Home, virtual, and after-hours visits are available. 

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