Can the feds come after me for failure to pay child support?

Under Arizona law, both parents of a child are required to look after the child's health and welfare regardless of whether the child lives with either parent. However, in most situations, the child will reside primarily with one parent for the majority of the year. That parent is considered the custodial parent and is usually entitled to child support from the noncustodial parent. Under Arizona's child support guidelines, the noncustodial parent is required to provide a percentage of his or her income towards the benefit of the child's care and welfare.

In Arizona, the Division of Child Support Services is tasked with enforcing child support orders whenever a parent fails to comply with established child support guidelines. The DCSS achieves its enforcement goals by means of a legal instrument known as an Administrative Income Withholding Order. Armed with that order, the DCSS can seize assets, tax returns and the lottery winnings of non-compliant parents. Additionally, the DCSS can also report negative information to credit reporting agencies regarding a noncompliant parent's arrearages, and it can also place means against their real property.

In extreme cases, DCSS can also enlist the help of the federal government in going after child support arrearages from noncompliant parents. The federal government can then withhold and redirect some federal revenue streams to DCSS. For example, a noncompliant parent who owes at least $150 can have up to 25 percent of their federal retirement benefits redirected. If a noncompliant parent works for the federal government at least 60 percent of their disposable earnings during any pay period can be diverted to DCSS. Additionally, the federal government can redirect federal income tax returns and withhold the issuance of passports to noncompliant parents.

Arizona parents who are in jeopardy of child support enforcement should know that there may be some legal remedies available to them. In some circumstances, a request to modify an existing child support order can be filed with the court. In some cases, a substantial and ongoing change to a parent's ability to earn income may reduce the amount of child support he or she is required to pay.

Source: Arizona Department of Economic Security, "Enforcement Remedies Used By Child Support Services" Oct. 30, 2014

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