Child Support

How Do I Enforce Child Support?


Payment Methods

Child support may be paid directly to the opposite spouse, by means of an Earnings Withholding Order or it may be paid through a court-sanctioned agency such as a child support enforcement division. The State and federal governments have a variety of techniques for enforcing payments of child support. The most common is by an earnings withholding order which requires the payor’s employer to send a portion of the payor’s  wages to a state agency which then forwards the money to the parent who has custody of the child. A federal law requires that after 1994, all child support orders must provide for an automatic earnings withholding order unless the parties have agreed otherwise, or unless a court waives the automatic order. Effective April 22, 2003, all payments of child support made payable through an Earnings Withholding Order must be paid through the State’s central collections unit. (Maryland Child Support Account, P.O. Box 17396, Baltimore,  Maryland 21297-1396.”) All local child support offices must set up accounts for private orders, so the child support can be collected and disbursed. All employers subject to earnings withholding orders now remit to a single location. The Federal Government's enforcement mechanisms can also be reviewed and researched.

Some Useful Links to Guide you further:  Maryland    Federal 

If He/She Does Not Pay?

Child Support Enforcement Office 

The Central Collections Unit is a clearinghouse. It has no enforcement authority or responsibility. The parent entitled to payment can seek enforcement through their local Child Support Enforcement Office.  The state also can intercept the federal and state tax refunds of persons who have not paid support. Liens can be placed on property, such as real estate and automobiles. Business licenses can be revoked or suspended. A parent who has not paid support can be held in contempt of court, which may result in a fine or a jail term. In addition, a parent who has not paid support can lose his or her driver's license or professional license. State's attorneys or district attorneys may help with collection of child support, though their efficiency varies from district to district. 


A"Contempt" proceeding can be filed with the Court to enforce the payment of a child support order. A "Contempt" proceeding can include incarceration as a condition i.e. the payor can be incarcerated if payments are not made as required by the Court after a hearing on the Contempt. Needless to say, the threrat of imprisonment is a strong inducement to pay!  The requirementts regarding a proper notice and opportunity to be heard protect the party in arrears, they are technical and very mandatory. Although a party can proceed without counsel, particular attention should be paid to the required procedures. There is a three year statute of limitations-you can't use contempt to force the collection of arrearages older than three years.

Judgment For Arrearages 

In addition to a Contempt proceeding, or as an alternative, you can request that the Court "Reduce the arrearages to Judgment". That means that you are asking that the amount unpaid should become a money judgment. That will allow you to collect the Judgment like any other cresitor. You can garnigh wages, levy execution and/or force rthe sale of the Payor's assets to collect what you are owed. If a Judgment is entered, it can be enforced for twelve years. See Cts & Jud. proc. 5-102(a)(3).

What If I Am Threatened With Jail Because I Can't Pay?

You may have a right to an attorney. See the recent U.S. Supreme Court case that seems to say you do!

Collecting Back Child Support—How Far Back?


An award of child support and/or alimony which was made in a Judgment of Absolute Divorce after a trial, or in an Agreement  incorporated  in the Judgment, is enforceable like all Judgments  with a twelve-year statute of limitations. The 12-year statute of limitations does not begin to run as to any payment until that payment becomes due, so the statute oflimitations is 12 years as to each payment.


Failure to pay is sometimes enforced with Contempt, which carries with it the possibility of incarceration under certain circumstances. Contempt is subject to a three-year Statute of Limitations.




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