Divorce is difficult enough even when it goes as smoothly as it possibly can. Even when spouses are able to get along well with one another and cooperate toward resolution of their issues, it is still a process that involves some amount of emotional and financial stress. Unfortunately, this stress can be magnified to a significant extent by a spouse who refuses to cooperate with the divorce process and all that it entails. Among all of the difficulties that one spouse can create for another both during and after the divorce process, refusing to meet child support obligations is one of the most distressing difficulties to encounter. Ideally, no one would have to confront this problem, but unfortunately, it is a reality for many North Carolina families. If you find yourself in this situation, you should no that you are not without rights and remedies under the law.
It should be reassuring for parents who find themselves in a situation where their spouse is underpaying or simply refusing to pay child support to know that in 1975, the United States Congress established a national program called Child Support Enforcement. The entire purpose of this program is to ensure that parents meet their responsibilities to provide for their dependent children following a divorce. This national program coordinates with the authorities in every state to locate non-custodial parents who have outstanding support obligations, and to attempt enforcement of those obligations.
In North Carolina, the North Carolina Division of Social Services is the official coordinator for the national Child Support Enforcement program. The North Carolina Division of Social Services maintains at least one Child Support Enforcement office in every county in North Carolina.
In order to begin the collections enforcement process, a complaint is filed in a county enforcement office.The custodial parent will be required to complete two forms. These two forms include the Application for Child Support Services form, and the Child Support Supplemental Data Sheet, and submit them together along with a processing fee.
Shortly after filing the required paperwork, a caseworker assigned to investigate your case will determine whether your ex-spouse is in fact behind on his or her child support payments. Once the parent has been located, they will be informed that their overdue support payments should be made immediately to the North Carolina Child Support Centralized Collections office, which is located in Raleigh.
Ideally, at this point, your ex-spouse would recognize the seriousness of the situation and make the necessary payments required. Unfortunately, however, this is simply not always the case. In those cases, the North Carolina Division of Social Services may have to take additional steps in its attempts to recover the delinquent funds from your spouse. Those steps may include:
- Notifying federal agencies to withhold federal tax refunds, social security benefits, retirement benefits, or veteran’s benefits;
- Notifying state agencies in North Carolina and elsewhere if necessary, to withhold state tax refunds, unemployment benefits, and workers’ compensation payments due to the non-paying spouse if necessary;
- Placing a garnishment on wages or salaried income from your ex-spouse’s employer;
- Seizing money from bank or credit union accounts (this option may only be used if the parent owes at least $1000 in outstanding child support or it at least six months behind in payments);
- Seize other cash assets held by the non-paying-spouse;
- Take any other steps within the bounds of the law to recover the outstanding support.
Even despite taking these steps, in some cases, the Division of Social Services is ultimately unable to recover the outstanding support. While this is obviously not the desired goal for the spouse who very much needs financial support, that spouse can rest assured in knowing that there are certain punitive measures that can be taken by law against the spouse who refuses to pay. These include:
- Notifying credit bureaus: If your spouse fails to pay support, the failure to do so may be reported to credit bureaus, which could damage your ex-spouse’s credit and prevent them from obtaining a loan or a new credit card, should they try to do so.
- Denying or revoking a passport: If the amount of outstanding child support is significant enough, your ex-spouse may have their passport revoked, subject to review by the United States State Department.
- License revocation: If your ex-spouse is significantly overdue in support payments, a judge may revoke your ex-spouse’s driver’s license, and your caseworker may even send notices to the professional board to ask that your former spouse’s license to work in certain obligations be revoked.
- Placing a lien on your ex–spouse’s property: If your ex-spouse is significantly overdue or behind on payments, a lien may be placed on their property blocking the sale or transfer of real estate that your ex-spouse might own. In certain cases, the property might even be sold against the ex-spouse’s wishes to repay the outstanding support obligation.
- Jail time: Ultimately, if your ex-spouse’s failure to pay support is egregious enough, the case may be prosecuted as a criminal offense, with jail time as a possible penalty.
Certainly, in the ideal situation, none of these penalties would have to be applied, and your ex-spouse would voluntarily meet his or her support obligations. Knowing these options are available, however, should provide some measure of peace of mind, and potentially act as a deterrent to your ex-spouse’s continued refusals to pay.
Contact the Law Office of Dustin McCrary Today
At the Law Office of Dustin S. McCrary, we are passionate about the practice of family law. We believe strongly that each and every client deserves an advocate who will fight tirelessly and effectively on their behalf. This is particularly so if you are the parent primarily responsible for the care of your children, and you are owed outstanding support that you desperately need. At the Law Office of Dustin S. McCrary, we understand the law, and we specialize in helping our clients through family law situations of all kinds, including seeking outstanding child support payments. We are proud to serve our community, and would be honored to have the opportunity to serve you. Contact us today.