Child support is an important obligation. Arizona courts make child support orders in order to give children a stable standard of living and to meet all of the child’s needs. Therefore, Arizona courts take child support seriously.
An experienced family law lawyer has several ways to cause the courts to enforce a child support order. The Division of Child Support Enforcement Child Support Evader program will only help when a parent owes more than $5,000.00 in child support, has failed to pay child support for six months, and has a child support arrest warrant. However, parents have a variety of other ways to enforce a child support order.
Income Withholding. The court may issue an income withholding order directing a parent’s employer to withhold a portion of his or her income and pay it to the Support Payment Clearinghouse. Courts may issue income withholding orders for current child support amounts or past due amounts or both. People commonly call this a garnishment. The income withholding order used to be called an order of assignment.
Credit Reports. The Division of Child Support Enforcement reports to credit reporting bureaus about child support payments and when payments are more than 180 days overdue, this will appear on the credit report as a collection account.
State Tax Refund. The state may withhold a state income tax return when a parent owes more than $50.00 in past due child support.
Seizure of Assets. When the court has issued a judgment for past due child support a parent may collect on the judgment by seizing the other parent’s assets through various procedures such as a writ of garnishment (for example, on a bank account), or a writ of execution (for example, on a non-exempt vehicle such as a boat).
Judgement Lien on Real Estate. When a parent records a judgment for past due child support with the county recorder, the judgment becomes a lien on all real estate the other parents owns in the county.
License Suspension. The family court may be able to order the Motor Vehicle Division to suspend a parent’s driver’s license. A court may also enter an order to suspend other licenses, such as professional licenses.
Lottery Winnings. The state may seize a parent’s lottery winnings over the amount of $600.00.
Incarceration. The court can find a parent who has failed to pay child support in contempt of court and order that parent to go to jail until the parent "purges" the contempt (usually by paying a large amount of the child support arrears and/or making timely payments for a set number of months) or report to jail by a certain date if he or she does not purge the contempt. In my experience, this is the most effective way of getting payment when the other parent has steadfastly failed to pay child support. Parents who swear that they have no money tend to miraculously find the money to purge the contempt. One common question is whether incarceration prevents the other parent from paying child support (the parent can’t work if he is in jail). The answer is no. The other parent can be in a program known as work release and be out of jail for up to 12 hours on work days so he or she can work to pay child support.
Parents can also seek the help of the Attorney General’s office in enforcing child support, but this will cause your case to enter a system that is horribly inefficient and very slow to act. The state’s involvement will trigger a federal requirement that all child support matters in your case appear before a judicial officer that is different than the judicial officer who will continue to hear all other matters in your case. This causes multiple delays, often disparate rulings, and twice as many trips to court. Also, my experience is that the Attorney General’s office is very slow to act.
Thomas A. Morton Has many years’ experience in child support enforcement and is willing and able to help you with your enforcement case. He serves clients in the Phoenix, Mesa, Glendale, and Peoria communities.