How is support enforced?
The main purpose of the Child Support Enforcement Program is to make sure that child support payments are made regularly and in the correct amount. When the other parent doesn't pay the whole amount, or doesn't pay at all, enforcement action is required.
In reviewing the file to determine the best method of enforcement, the Child Support Division's first concern is establishing a regular payment plan for ongoing support. Collection of arrearages is the secondary concern. Picking the best method of enforcement is based on all the information about your case, like past payment history, the date when the last payment was received, where the other parent is located, how much money he/she makes and what kind of assets he/she has.
The Child Support Division will try to get the other parent to pay voluntarily. Sometimes, regular and full payments are received in response to directed correspondence, the threat of contempt proceedings and possible incarceration, regular compliance reviews with the Child Support Division, establishment of an Income Withholding Order, or by a simple telephone reminder.
Whether or not the other parent has assets which could be used to pay off back child support, (like money in the bank or a car, house or recreational vehicle) will often determine the success of the action taken. There are limitations to taking these kinds of assets for payment of support.
Contempt of Court
If the court finds that a person is delinquent in the payment of child support as a result of an intentional violation of an order for support, the court may find the person in contempt of court. As a result of this finding, the Court has the authority to commit the person to jail for a reasonable time, usually up to a maximum of 180 days. While this is a civil and not a criminal proceeding, and does not result in a "conviction," the threat of incarceration often operates as a strong incentive to pay the ordered support.
The Child Support Division is required to file a Verified Information for a hearing on a Rule to Show Cause when a person is delinquent in child support payments and there is evidence of willful non-payment of child support. This is a legal pleading demanding that the person "show cause" why they should not be held in contempt of court for failure to pay child support. However, in order for the person to be held in contempt of court, it is necessary that they receive notice of the hearing, understand the nature of the allegations against them and have an attorney present before sentencing. Notice of the hearing is ordinarily accomplished through certified mail or personal service by the Sheriff. At the hearing, it must then be established that the person was aware of the support order, had the ability to pay, and willfully failed to pay in compliance with the order.
Income Withholding Orders
As required by Indiana law, the Child Support Division will seek to obtain an Income Withholding Order to withhold child support payments from the Non-Custodial Party’s wages or other income. The paying parent will always be required to report to our office within five days of any change in address or employment. Failure to comply is punishable by a finding of contempt and subject to incarceration. If you have knowledge of the Non-Custodial Party’s employment please contact us immediately.
Anyone who has made application for our program is eligible for the tax intercept program so long as the arrearage requirements are met ($100.00 for TANF and $500.00 for Non-AFDC TANF.) The Tax Intercept Program authorizes the interception of federal and state income tax refunds and lottery winnings of the Non-Custodial Party.
While the Tax Intercept program is automatic, the Non-Custodial Party must actually file taxes to receive a refund. If the Non-Custodial Party has failed to file a tax return and the Child Support Division has evidence of earned income, we will seek to have them held in contempt.
The Child Support Division will go across state lines to request the enforcement of child support orders in another state where either the child or the obligated parent lives in Washington County. Full cooperation and assistance is offered to other states, who are strongly encouraged to provide reciprocal enforcement of child support orders. Nevertheless, relying on other states often result in additional delays.
Professional and Driver's License Suspension
Under Indiana Code 31-25-4-32, whenever the Indiana Child Support Bureau finds that the Non-Custodial Party is delinquent ($2,000.00 or 3 months behind in the payment of child support) and the Child Support Bureau issues notice to the Non-Custodial Party, the Non-Custodial Party must:
(1) Pay the child support arrears in full; or
(2) Establish a payment plan with the Indiana Child Support Bureau to re-pay the arrears that includes an Income Withholding Order; or
(3) Request a hearing with the Indiana Child Support Bureau within 20 days after the date the notice is mailed.
If the Non-Custodial Party fails to do so, the Indiana Child Support Bureau has broad powers to issue driver’s license suspensions, hunting, fishing, and trapping license suspensions, and professional license suspensions.
Many of these enforcement actions are now done centrally by the Indiana Child Support Bureau and outside of the supervision of the Washington County Child Support Division. However, we can monitor these activities and respond to any questions you may have. These new tools went into effect in 2009 and have greatly increased our collection efforts while reducing enforcement time.Under Indiana Code 31-16-12-7 and 31-16-12-8, upon a finding of contempt pursuant to a Rule To Show Cause, the court may order the suspension of the Non-Custodial Party’s driver’s license or professional licenses. For example, when a court finds that a Non-Custodial Parent who is an attorney, licensed teacher or practitioner, is delinquent ($2,000.00 or 3 months behind in the payment of child support) as a result of an intentional violation of a child support order, the court shall issue an order to the board regulating the practice of the person's profession requiring suspension or prohibiting the board not to issue a license.Motor Vehicle Liens, Liens and JudgmentUnder Indiana Code 31-25-4-30, the Indiana Child Support Bureau also has the authority to issue motor vehicle liens against delinquent child support obligors. This restricts the obligor’s ability to sell or purchase a new vehicle until an agreement is reached with the Prosecuting Attorney for the release of the lien. Usually, this means that all proceeds from the sale of the vehicle must be applied toward child support or a lump sum must be paid up front before the lien will be released.
We will pursue other liens and judgments where the arrearage is over $2,000.00 and collection of the arrears is not available through an Income Withholding Order or some other enforcement method. This method of enforcement is often successful when dealing with those Non-Custodial Parents who are self-employed.
The Child Support Division will make every effort to exhaust all civil remedies available to us in order to enforce and collect the child support arrearage. If this is unsuccessful, criminal charges may be appropriate. Indiana Code 35-46-1-5 provides that a person who knowingly or intentionally fails to provide support to a dependent, commits Nonsupport of a Child, a class D felony. It is a Class C Felony if the amount of unpaid support due and owing for one or more children is at least $15,000.
A Class D Felony is punishable by 1/2 to 3 years imprisonment and/or a fine of $10,000. A Class C Felony is punishable by 2 to 8 years imprisonment and/or a fine of $10,000. It is a defense to the crime of Nonsupport of a Child that the person was unable to provide support.
The matter may also be referred to the United States Attorney for pursuit of federal criminal charges. Title 18, 228 of the United States Code makes the willful failure to pay a past due support obligation with respect to a child living in another state a federal crime. To be applied, the support obligation must exceed $5,000 or remain unpaid for more than one (1) year. The penalties under this statute are: 1) for the first offense, not more than 6 months imprisonment and/ or a fine of $5,000; and 2) for the second offense, not more than 2 years imprisonment and/or a fine of $250,000.