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Five Common Child Support Enforcement Devices


If the child support obligor in your family’s life is behind on monthly payments, you are certainly not alone. Nationwide, less than half of these obligors pay the full amount due. The resulting shortfall now exceeds $110 billion, and that figure is climbing daily.

Technically, the state attorney general has the right to collect past-due child support. But the AG’s client is the state, and not an individual family. Therefore, these lawyers often pay little or no attention to the family’s needs. Additionally, the state’s attorneys have huge case backlogs, so they are often rather unresponsive.

Partnering with a Clearwater family attorney is normally a much better option. A lawyer represents you and not the state. Furthermore, a private lawyer is much more responsive to your family’s needs. As outlined below, there are a number of possible collection devices. Not all of them are appropriate in all situations. But at least one is always the right approach.

Demand Letter

Many obligors fall behind incrementally. They pay a little less each month, largely because they think there are no consequences. A demand letter lets these obligors know that someone is watching and that there are actual consequences for nonpayment.

Other obligors have harsh tempers. They might react very angrily to some of the more aggressive collections devices discussed below. So, pursuing such an action might be like throwing gasoline onto a smoldering fire. A demand letter, on the other hand, does not have nearly the same effect.

Property or Credit Lien

Much like a demand letter, a credit or property lien is meaningless, by itself. However, the obligor will eventually want to borrow money or sell the property. At that time, the obligor must address the lien.

Typically, an attorney agrees to reduce a credit or property lien if the obligor pays a considerable amount of money upfront, usually at least a third of the arrearage, and sets up a payment plan for the remainder. If the obligor fails to follow through, it’s easy enough to re-file the lien.

Income Withholding Order

Most divorce orders contain latent withholding order provisions. If the obligor falls behind, the obligee has the right to file a withholding order. In most cases, these orders can withhold up to 50 percent of the obligor’s income for current and past-due child support.

These orders often have some practical issues. Most employers use out-of-state payroll companies. The order must be served on this company, and the divorce decree must be valid in that state. Additionally, if the obligor is self-employed, a withholding order might not do any good.

Payment Intercept

Life insurance payouts, tax refunds, lottery winnings, and stimulus payments are just a few of the windfall payments that are subject to payment intercept due to child support arrearage. Timing is usually important in these cases.

Tax refunds are a good example. Most people get their refund checks in the spring, and many judges only sign payment intercept orders that expire after a few months. So, obligees should file their requests in the winter.


No one wants to see obligors go to jail. But as a last resort, incarceration, or the threat of incarceration, is often effective. When people face jail time, they can usually come up with enough money to avoid this penalty, whether they acquire the money by hook or by crook.

Contact a Dedicated Lawyer

If your ex owes child support, you have several legal options. For a consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Clearwater, contact Cairns Law, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Pinellas County and nearby jurisdictions.




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