Child Support Arrearages and Collection
It is decidedly common for a noncustodial parent to be dissatisfied about the amount of child support that a court has ordered them to pay. However, this does not excuse them from paying it, even while a modification may be pending. If you are owed child support by your former spouse, this is referred to as an arrearage, and it must be paid, regardless of what other obligations your ex-spouse may have. In Illinois, there are various ways to collect on the debt.
Penalties for Non-Payment
If you owe child support and fall behind in payments without working out an alternative with your ex-spouse (or the court), the state of Illinois will be informed, and possibly federal authorities, depending on your location and the amount owed. If you attempt to disappear to avoid obligations, there are entities such as the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS) which exist to track down deadbeat parents, and you may be penalized more for attempting to shirk your commitments. In extreme cases, you may be jailed under the Illinois Non-Support Punishment Act.
If you are located, there are multiple ways in which the state or federal government may obtain the amount owed (in addition to any penalties assessed for your failure to pay), including withholding your tax refund to put toward the arrearage or garnishing your wages. In Illinois, a program called the Family Financial Responsibility Act (known colloquially as the “Deadbeats Don’t Drive” program) also has the power to suspend or revoke your driver’s license until arrearages are paid. It is important to remember that these methods are intended to collect the back child support owed, while any penalties assessed on top of that may have to be paid in a different manner.
When Support Ends
One common situation that may lead to misunderstandings between ex-spouses is the question of when support specifically ends, and what happens to any arrearages owed at that point. The quick answer is that arrearages do not disappear right away after support is meant to end. In many states, there is a statute of limitations on how many years may pass before an arrearage can no longer be collected, but this is not the case in Illinois - the law states explicitly that “child support judgments . . . may be enforced at any time.”
If you would rather deal with the matter proactively, the best thing to do is contact the relevant state authorities and double-check the amount of the arrearage. Once the amount has been established as correct, you may be able to work out a plan of payment with either your spouse or the family court. However, it is important to remember that you begin to pay the arrearage dating furthest back, not the most recent, so the interest accrued may make the sum quite expensive.
Seek Experienced Legal Assistance
Child support is an obligation owed to your child, not to your ex-spouse, and as such, the state places a high value on ensuring it is collected. If you have child support arrearages and need help, contacting a knowledgeable attorney can be a good move. The dedicated Kane County child support attorneys at Shaw Family Law, P.C. are happy to help answer your questions and try to guide you forward. Contact us at 630-584-5550 today to set up an appointment.