If you are a custodial parent who should be receiving child support payments and the other parent is not making timely or complete payments, this article will detail some steps you can take to enforce court-ordered child support. If you are a non-custodial parent required to pay child support, this article will inform you of some of the measures that can be taken if you fail to fulfill your support obligation.
Topics on this page
- Child Support Services through the Child Support Administration (CSA)
- Tools the CSA can use to collect child support.
- Court actions to enforce payment of child support
- What if I don’t know where the other parent is?
- What if the other parent does not live in Maryland?
- What if the parent tries to hide income or assets?
- Loss of Driver's License & Child Support
Child Support Services through the Child Support Administration (CSA)
In Maryland, any custodian of a minor child is eligible for child support services through the Child Support Administration (CSA). Each county in Maryland has a CSA location that can assist custodial parents in establishing a court order for support. The CSA can also help collect child support from other parents. Custodians can include parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, court-appointed guardians, or others who are caring for a child. A list of CSA locations is available online.
CSA child support services include:
- searching for the other parent
- legally establishing paternity
- obtaining a court order for child support and health insurance
- collecting support payments
- enforcing the court order
- reviewing and adjusting the court-ordered support amount
Families receiving public assistance.
CSA is responsible for collecting child support for families receiving cash assistance. If you receive cash assistance, medical assistance, or have not received at least $3,500 of child support within a 12-month period beginning October 1 of each year, child support services will be provided free of charge.
If you do receive cash assistance in Maryland, you must assign child support rights to the state. This means that the state of Maryland will have the right to collect the child support owed to you as reimbursement for the cash assistance you are receiving from the State. You must also help locate the parent absent from the home. If you do not cooperate, you may be denied public assistance benefits.
Families not receiving public assistance.
The local CSA office can also help parents who do not receive public assistance. The CSA will assign a child support worker, and if necessary, an attorney to go to court to enforce the order. To apply for the agency’s help, you must complete an application and pay a one-time, non-refundable $15 fee. In addition to the $15 application fee, your case will be charged an annual $15 after you receive $3,500 in child support collections for that year.
Tools the CSA can use to collect child support.
If the noncustodial parent does not pay on time, or does not pay in full, the CSA has various tools to enforce payment. The CSA may:
- Withhold child support from wages and unemployment benefits, Workers’ Compensation claims, etc;
- Intercept federal and state tax refunds to pay child support arrears;
- Report parents owing past-due support to credit bureaus;
- Report parents owing child support to new employers;
- Refer parents owing past-due support to the Motor Vehicle Administration for driver’s license suspension;
- Intercept Maryland lottery winnings to pay child support arrears;
- Garnish accounts at financial institutions
- Request the suspension or revocation of a professional or recreational license;
- Bring contempt of court actions against that parent;
- Issue an administrative lien on real or personal property and seize assets for past due support;
- Deny the issuance or renewal of a passport; and
- Refer cases for federal prosecution when non-custodial parents move to another state to avoid paying child support.
Contact the Child Support Enforcement Agency at 800-332-6347 for additional information.
NOTE: In urgent or complicated cases, parents might find it in their best interest to locate a private lawyer or legal aid attorney who can go to court and argue to a judge on their behalf. Sometimes, this can be more effective than waiting for CSA to act.
Court actions to enforce payment of child support
File a Motion to Compel
You can file a motion to compel whenever the other parent falls behind on their payments. By filing the motion, you are asking the court to require that additional payments be added to the monthly child support amount established in the Child Support Order. The additional payments are to make up for the ones that have been missed. The court typically orders up to 25% additional monthly payments if it can be determined that the parent who owes money is technically capable of making the payments.
Obtain a Wage Assignment
A wage assignment is a special procedure that allows the court to order an employer to make direct payments to the custodial parent from the supporting parent's wages. You can ask that the other parent’s wages be withheld, and the payment sent directly to you through an earnings withholding order. You can ask the court for this order when child support is first awarded or later on if the person fails to pay support. Notice of this action must be served on the paying parent's employer. The employer will deduct child support like any other deduction from the paying parent's paycheck and send the money directly to the custodial parent. This is a very valuable tool if the nonpaying parent holds a steady job.
Ask the Court to Find the Person Who Owes Child Support in Contempt.
If a person willfully disobeys a lawful child support order, they can be found in contempt of court. Once the court finds that person in contempt, the court can order a number of remedies, including that the person be temporarily incarcerated until they pay a certain amount established by the court to “purge” the contempt. The civil contempt action is brought by the custodial parent or the local child support agency acting on their behalf.
If you are representing yourself, you can find a Petition for Contempt on the Maryland Courts website. Once the petition is filed, the nonpaying parent must be notified (served with process) since they have the Constitutional right to appear at the hearing and present a defense. The court will schedule a hearing to determine if the person should be found in contempt.
What if I don’t know where the other parent is?
Nonpaying parents may hide from the custodial parent to avoid their child support obligation. They may even go so far as to move out of state to avoid their responsibilities. To fix this problem, the federal government has created the Parent Locator Service. States are also required to establish a Parent Locator Services.
The service allows the use of federal government resources (including the Social Security Administration and the IRS) to locate a nonpaying parent's employer. You would not make a direct request for information. Rather, you would need to work with your local child support agency in order to use the Parent Locator Service. Once found, the custodial parent or the state can enforce the child support order and collect unpaid support from tax refunds. The law also permits the IRS to pay past due child support from tax refunds that the nonpaying parent is due from the government.
For more information on the Federal Parent Locator Service, contact the local office of the Department of Health and Human Services.
What if the other parent does not live in Maryland?
Even if the other parent lives in another state or country, your local CSA office can work to establish paternity, collect support, and resolve any issues you may have with your case.
What if the parent tries to hide income or assets?
If you believe the non-paying parent is attempting to hide income or assets, you should work with a lawyer and the local CSA office to obtain proof of the parent’s true financial situation. This may involve requesting subpoenas be issued to auto financing and mortgage companies, landlords, or any other place where the parent makes regular payments. Evidence about the parent’s lifestyle (vacations taken, type of car owned, etc.) and past earnings will all help to make it easier to prove that the parent can and should pay child support.
Loss of Driver's License & Child Support
I received a Notice of Driver License Suspension. What Can I do?
If you are 60 days or more behind on your child support obligation, the Child Support Enforcement Administration is supposed to notify the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA), which will then suspend your driver’s license. However, before notifying the MVA, the Child Support Enforcement Administration must send you written notice that includes an explanation of your right to request an investigation if you disagree with the suspension.
It is important that you do not miss the deadline stated in the notice.
Be sure to date your request for investigation and keep a copy for your records. The Child Support Enforcement Administration must then conduct an investigation and send you a notice of the results. The notice should explain your right to further appeal if you disagree with the decision. Date your appeal request and keep a copy for your records.
My License Has Been Suspended. Now What?
If your driver’s license has already been suspended, you can also try to file a motion to reinstate your driver’s license with the court which issued the child support order. You should include in your motion why you think the suspension is in error and/or why you believe it is in your children’s best interests for your driver’s license to be reinstated. For example, you may need your license to complete training school.
The Child Support Enforcement Administration must tell the MVA to reinstate your license once the arrearages (amount of money owed) are paid in full or if you have "demonstrated good faith" by paying the ordered amount of support for 6 consecutive months after the suspension.
You can contact the Child Support Enforcement Administration by calling their main office at (800) 332-6347.
You can also use the myDHR system, to check the status of your case online. You can use your nine-digit Child Support case number when you create a login. You can find the Child Support case number on your check.
Request a Restricted License.
If you are currently working and your driver’s license has been suspended, you can request a work-restricted driver’s license. To do this, you should obtain a letter from your employer verifying your employment. Next, contact your agent at your local child support enforcement office and arrange a meeting to present the proof of employment and request a work-restricted license. The Child Support Enforcement Administration should then provide you with the paperwork to take to the MVA to get the restricted license.
You can contact the Child Support Enforcement Administration main office by calling (800) 332-6347 or by calling your local area office .