Illinois’ Child Support Laws Have Teeth;
Here’s What Happens to the Parent Who Doesn’t Pay
by Richard Fonfrias, J.D. Chicago’s Financial Rescue & Bankruptcy Lawyer Fonfrias Law Group, LLC
Here’s the premise:
Raising children – and the cost of raising children – is often overwhelming.
Both parents are responsible for the child’s care and support. And even if the relationship or marriage ends, that parental responsibility continues.
Illinois law states that the parent who does not have custody of the child must pay part of the cost of raising the child. And the parent who has custody is entitled to receive money from the parent without custody, who is legally obligated to pay.
Further, if the non-custodial parent fails to pay child support, the parent who has custody may ask for help from Illinois’ Division of Child Support Services. This agency has many ways to collect child support, and none of those ways is pleasant for the parent who is obligated to pay. Those ways include garnishing wages, slapping liens on property, revoking licenses, seizing tax refunds, and prosecuting under the state’s criminal laws.
The National and State Child Support Enforcement Programs Work Together…
. . . to make sure children receive financial support from both parents. They do this by finding non-custodial parents, proving child support obligations, and executing orders of child support. In Illinois, this is the responsibility of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services’ Division of Child Support Services (DCSS), usually handled at local county offices. Child support orders are recorded on DCSS databases and this agency monitors support payments.
When DCSS receives notice from the parent who has not received court-ordered child support, DCSS initiates collection actions to enforce payments from the delinquent parent. If the parent with custody receives public assistance, this process is handled automatically.
First Attempt: Garnishing Wages
First, DCSS makes an effort to collect the past-due support from the wages of the non-custodial parent, usually called wage garnishment. To accomplish this, DCSS serves the non-paying parent’s employer with an Income Withholding for Support request and directs the employer to keep an added amount in child support from the non-compliant parent’s earnings. This directive stays in effect until the past-due balance is fully paid. If the parent without custody is not subject to withholding income, then DCSS may require that he guarantee payment by posting a bond or security.
Second Attempt: Seizing Funds
If garnishing wages is not possible or not successful, then DCSS will send a letter to the non-custodial parent telling him of its intension to seize funds in various ways. If the parent does not pay, DCSS goes forward with these methods, individually or in combination. These include (1) intercepting both federal and state income tax refunds, (2) seizing bank accounts, and (3) slapping liens against property.
Third Attempt: Revoking Licenses
In addition to seizing wages and property, DCSS may have the non-custodial parent’s licenses suspended, revoked or denied. These include his (1) driver’s license, (2) U.S. passport, and (3) professional, occupational or recreational licenses. In addition, acting under the authority of the Family Financial Responsibility Act, DCSS may deny the non-custodial parent’s driving privileges when that parent falls 90 days or more behind in child support payments. The non-custodial parent can prevent these suspensions by bringing his child support payments current before they are implemented.
Fourth Attempt: Prosecuting as a Crime
When the child support payments fall more than six-months behind, or exceed $5,000, DCSS may request criminal prosecution at the state or federal level. The non-custodial parent may be required to pay fines and do jail time, with the amount of the fines and length of jail time increasing with the amount of money owed.
For example, the parent owing child support for six months or over $5,000 could be convicted of a Class A misdemeanor. The parent who owes more than $20,000 in past-due support could be charged with a Class 4 felony and jailed for one to three years.