Nationally, only about half of the custodial parents with support orders receive full payment. A non-custodial parent may pay the support order for a while and then stop. Sometimes, the non-custodial parent will make only partial payments, skip payments or never pay at all.
When an account is not paid on time and in full, that account is called delinquent. The OCSE program identifies delinquent accounts and takes all actions allowed by law to be sure that children get all the support ordered by the court. Enforcement of a delinquent account has two basic parts. The first is to make sure that support payments are made on time and in full. The second is to collect additional money to make up for those payments the non-custodial parent missed (arrears).
Enforcement can also mean making sure that the non-custodial parent maintains health insurance coverage for the child as ordered by the court. There are two categories of enforcement action:
The following enforcement methods are initiated administratively by the OCSE program. Some or all of these methods may be used, depending on the specifics of your case and the information on your case record about the non-custodial parent.
These methods can be highly effective in collecting delinquent support:
- Income execution requires the non-custodial parent's employer to deduct child support payments from the non-custodial parent's paycheck and send them to the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE). Income execution can also be used to deduct support payments from unemployment insurance benefits (UIB) or other benefits the non-custodial parent receives. Income execution works best if the non-custodial parent receives a regular paycheck or unemployment insurance benefits. However, one out of five workers do not receive a regular paycheck. If the non-custodial parent is self-employed or earns money "off the books," income execution may not work, and enforcement action by the court may be necessary.
- Tax Refund Offset - Every year the OCSE program sends a list of delinquent accounts to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. Eligibility for state tax refund offset is $50 in unpaid child support and for federal it is $150 for TANF cases and $500 for non-TANF cases. Non-custodial parents who are expecting federal or state tax refunds will not receive them if they do not pay their child support debts first. Instead, the refund money is sent to the OCSE program to pay the delinquent support.
- Medical Support - If the non-custodial parent was ordered to provide health insurance for the child and has not done so, the OCSE program will require the non-custodial parent's employer to notify as to whether health coverage is available, enroll the child in any family coverage which may be available to the non-custodial parent, deduct any employee paid health insurance premiums from their wages, and provide the custodial parent with documentation necessary to receive services.
- Credit reporting agency process - The OCSE program will report a non-custodial parent who owes $1,000 or more in unpaid child support to credit reporting agencies. If the non-custodial parent is reported to a credit-reporting agency as a delinquent payer, it may affect his/her personal credit rating. This forces the non-custodial parent who wants credit (e.g. mortgage, car loans, credit card) to pay child support first.
- Lottery Prize intercept - If a non-custodial parent owes at least $50 in unpaid child support and wins $600 or more in the lottery, the amount owed will be deducted from the prize money and sent to the OCSE program to pay off the child support debt.
- Property execution is a method that allows the SCU to take a non-custodial parent's liquid assets, such as a bank account, to pay delinquent support. The SCU can require the bank to freeze the account so that the non-custodial parent cannot withdraw any money. The bank would then be required to transfer the amount of delinquent support from the non-custodial parent's account to the SCU to pay the child support debt.
- Driver's license suspension - A respondent's New York State issued driver's license can be suspended if they owe an amount equal to or greater than four months of their current obligation amount. The suspension will not be lifted until such time as the non-custodial parent pays all that is owed or enters into a payment arrangement with the SCU.
- Referral to New York State Department of Taxation and Finance - A respondent who owes at least four month's obligation that is at least $500 and is not paying by income execution, may be referred to the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance (DTF) for further enforcement. Based on the referral, DTF may file tax warrants and seize and sell property (e.g. cars, houses, businesses, etc.).
- Personal Injury Claim - The Personal Injury Claim (PIC) process provides the Support Collection Unit (SCU) with access to insurance claim information and allows child support to use personal injury settlement funds to satisfy child support arrears. The term "personal injury" in the PIC process is used to describe both workers' compensation and personal injury claims. PIC is an automated process. When a non-custodial parent is identified in our computer system as having filed a workers' compensation insurance claim, it indicates to the SCU that the respondent's source of income is no longer wages from an employer, but instead is money disbursed through the employer's workers' compensation insurance carrier. A workers' compensation claim is enforced by using the income execution process. Personal injury claims are enforced by the SCU through the lien process. The enforcement process begins when the non-custodial parent's account is four months past due in payment.
- Passport Denial - The New York State Division of Child Support Enforcement and the U.S. State Department work together to prevent delinquent non-custodial parents from renewing or obtaining passports. The passport of a non-custodial parent may be denied if there is at least $2,500.00 owed in child support arrears. The non-custodial must fully satisfy the arrears due in order to be removed from the passport denial process.
When income execution and/or administrative mechanisms are not successful, court intervention for support enforcement is required. Court enforcement requires the filing of a violation petition with family court. A violation petition asks the court to take action against the non-custodial parent who has not paid court-ordered child support. The non-custodial parent will get a summons to appear in court on a specific day for a violation hearing. At the violation hearing the court will listen to testimony, examine SCU payment records, and make a decision.
Outcomes of the hearing may include:
- A money judgment represents a decision by the court that the non-custodial parent is behind in child support payments in a specified amount. This is a mandatory provision.
- Lien - The money judgment is recorded with the county clerk who creates a lien on the non-custodial parent's property. The lien requires the debt to be paid before the property can be sold or transferred.
- Cash Deposit requires the non-custodial parent to deposit money (up to three years' worth of child support) with the SCU. Payments can be taken out of this deposit if the non-custodial parent fails to pay support on time in the future.
- Professional, business, or occupational license suspension - The court has the authority to order a hearing for the suspension of the non-custodial parent's state issued professional, business, or occupational license if support arrears are equivalent to or greater than the amount of current support for four months.
- Jail - The non-custodial parent may be committed to jail for up to six months. If the non-custodial parent did not appear in court for the hearing, the court can issue a default order and grant any of the enforcement remedies discussed above. The court may also issue an arrest order for the non-custodial parent.