Collecting Child Support On Your Own

This page is all about how you can collect child support yourself, without paying a lawyer and without sharing your support with a collection agency. It includes some discussion about Income Withholding Orders and other ways you can collect your own child support.

When you’re setting out to collect child support, there are some really great reasons to do it yourself if at all possible. First, it’s often all you really need to do. Second, it’s cheaper and faster than the other options. And third, it keeps you in control.

Increasingly now, the procedures in local courts are set up to allow people who are owed child support to enter an income withholding order (often called an “IWO”) on their own. An IWO is a court order instructing the payor’s employer to deduct child support from the payor’s paycheck and pay it to the court, which will in turn pay it to the custodial parent.

In my court, for example, which is not at all user friendly to unrepresented parties, entering an IWO is one of the few things people really can do easily for themselves without the help of a lawyer. You go to the local courthouse where your divorce or child support case resides, and you tell the court staff that you need to enter an income withholding order. They give you an affidavit to fill out, they charge you a nominal fee (it’s $15.00 in my local court), and they take it from there.

If you’re not living in the court where your case resides, don’t let that deter you from entering your own Income Withholding Order. The court often will be willing to send you the affidavit in the mail, you return to them the filled-out affidavit and the filing ree, and they will take it from there as if you had been standing at the counter at the courthouse.

An IWO works great if the other parent has a stable job at a decent-sized company that takes its obligations and compliance seriously. They will immediately respond to the IWO and then begin taking the child support out of the payor’s paycheck and sending it to the court, which will in turn send it on to you. The process takes several weeks, but once it begins, the money usually comes in on a fairly predictable schedule. If the payor leaves his or her job, of course, you’ll have to find out where he or she is working and enter a new IWO, but while you’re not receiving the child support, keep in mind that it’s earning interest (if your jurisdiction provides for interest).

What if you’re not able to use an IWO? The other options are a bit messier, but they’re very real. You’ll probably need to file some sort of enforcement petition, asking the court to order the noncustodial parent to begin making the payments.

Thanks, Lee, but this won’t work for me. Tell me about other ways to collect my child support.

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