Collecting Child Support
Authored By: Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc.
HOW DO I START COLLECTING CHILD SUPPORT?
To collect your child support, you must first have a support order. A support order is an order from a judge requiring someone to pay you child support. Support orders are usually included in divorce decrees and paternity orders. They also are sometimes issued by the Department of Human Services (DHS). If you do not have a support order, you will need to get one. Persons who are married to the other parent of their child may need to file for divorce or a separation. Those who have never been married should file a paternity case. In either event, it is a good idea to contact an attorney for assistance with getting a child support order. Once you have an order directing the other parent to pay a certain amount of support, you can take legal steps to collect. This pamphlet will discuss several options which are available.
STATE CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT
The State of Oklahoma maintains child support offices that serve every county in the state. In some counties, like Tulsa, child support services are provided through the Department of Human Services. In other counties, services are provided through District Attorney offices. One child support office may serve several counties.
Child support offices help collect support through a variety of methods. They can intercept tax refunds, for example--something private attorneys cannot do. They can also use government computers to locate missing parents.
If you receive TANF benefits, the child support office automatically collects support to reimburse the State for the money DHS pays you. If you go off of welfare, the child support office will continue to collect support for you unless you close your case. For a small fee, a child support office will collect support for you even if you have never received public assistance.
Child support offices can also refer cases to other parts of the country. If the parent of your child lives in another state, you can go to your local child support office for help. This method saves the cost and trouble of trying to hire an attorney in another location. Contact information for your local child support office may be found at http://www.okdhs.org/okdhslocal.
You can also find online forms and information to help you with court forms and filing on Legal Aid's Self-Help Forms page.
OTHER OPTIONS FOR COLLECTING
Income Assignment? An income assignment is similar to a garnishment. The other parent's employer is required to take money out of their paycheck and send it to you. If the payments are behind, the employer can take out additional wages to apply towards the past-due amount. To issue an income assignment, contact a private attorney or your local child support office.Contempt?Contempt is a type of legal action you can file to collect support. Contempt means someone has purposely disobeyed a court order. It is contempt when a parent does not pay support even though he or she had the money to pay. The judge can sentence the parent to as much as six months in jail. To file a contempt action, call a private attorney or your local child support office.Criminal Charges?Failure to support a child is a criminal offense. If the lack of payment is serious enough, your local District Attorney may be willing to prosecute the other parent. To file criminal charges, call your local District Attorney's office.Private Attorneys / Collection Services?Some private attorneys and collection agencies will collect support for a fee. Some attorneys require a deposit in advance, while others take their fee out of the past-due amounts they collect. Private attorneys and collection agencies are more likely to accept a child support case if there is a large amount of past-due support and if the other parent is steadily employed. You can often find listings for attorneys and collection agencies that specialize in child support by looking in the Yellow Pages under "Child Support."