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Collecting from a Deadbeat

The Court ordered your spouse to pay child support. That's great! Your spouse is not paying it. That's unforgivable!

You have gone through the normal channels to get your (ex)spouse to pay and yet still nothing. What can you do? Plenty!

The first thing you will have to do is to treat the collection of unpaid child support as a business transaction. Although it is very personal, you should not let your emotions get in the way of what you must do to collect the money you are owed.

Hiring an attorney
If you can, it would be much easier on you if you hired an attorney. Most attorneys specialize in certain types of law, the same as Doctors specialize in certain areas of medicine. Therefore, the attorney you hire should probably not be the attorney that did your divorce. What you need now is a debt collection attorney not a family law attorney.

You should interview several attorneys before making your selection. Find out how many of his/her debt collections were for child support. What methods are used to collect the money. Do they subscribe to any credit reporting agencies? Will they obtain liens, judgments and wage executions? Will they issue subpoenas and conduct judgment exams for you? What are his/her fees? Are they on a contingency basis, or on a per hour basis; are there any consultation fees; is a retainer required; if the fee is based on an hourly rate then ask if you could be on a payment plan?

If you cannot afford an attorney or decide it is too costly there is still plenty you can do on your own.

Getting your money
There are several options in getting your money. They all involve work on your part and judgments from the Courts (court orders). The following outlines various type of judgment where you will be able to get your money. Don't be afraid to use these options because after all it is your money. The money you need to feed, clothe, and provide a place for your children to live.

Wage Withholding
This is where by court order your (ex)spouse's employer must deduct a certain amount of money on a continuous basis from his/her paycheck and forward it to you or a state agency. The employer must comply by law to this order. Under federal law, a wage withholding must be permitted for anyone that has a child support order where the payments are 30 days past due or if three consecutive payments have been missed. The amount that can be deducted is limited to 50%-65% of the paycheck depending on the marital status, dependents, and arrearages.

Wage Garnishment
This is different from wage withholding. A wage garnishment is an order to deduct a one-time lump sum amount. Depending upon the amount you are owed and the size of the paycheck your (ex)spouse receives, this may or may not be the right option for you.

Contempt of Court
If your (ex) spouse is court ordered to pay child support and aren't, they can be held in contempt of court. You will have to file an Order to Show Cause which makes the (ex) spouse go to court explain to the judge why they are not following the court order. After enough times in front of the judge, they may be sent to jail and not released until payment is made. However, payment in full is not always guaranteed in order for the deadbeat to be released.

Additional Divorce Resources and Information:

Directory of Attorneys Directory of Mediators FAQ's Featured Articles Child Support Calculators Child Support Spousal Maintenance in Minnesota Treatment of Disability Pay in Military Divorce

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