Collecting Past Due Child Support

Only about half of child support obligees receive the full amount they are owed, resulting in a staggering $5 billion annual arrearage. Moreover, there is about a 4-to-1 ratio between administrative costs and money collected. So, in order to collect $100 million in unpaid support, a state must spend at least $25 million. In many cases, that is money which the state simply does not have.

As a result, child support enforcement cases that are turned over to the Attorney General or other public agency often languish due to lack of attention. And, once the case finally begins to move through the system, the state attorney does not represent you or your family.

Conversely, a private attorney is a strong advocate who is committed to upholding your legal and financial rights. Also, an experienced child support collection lawyer has the exact same tools that are available to a state attorney.

Procedural Matters

A judge normally authorizes a withholding order when the divorce or child custody paperwork is signed, but this order is usually not issued. If the obligor parent becomes delinquent, and the obligor parent has a W-2 job, that withholding order can normally be served on the person's employer. Typically, that order can withhold up to 50 percent of the obligor's check for both current and past due child support.

Serving a withholding order is sometimes easier said than done. Many times, employers use off-site companies to handle payroll matters; other times, the obligor parent's employer is in another state, and may hesitate to respect an Illinois court order.

In addition to wage withholding, there are a number of other coercive measures that can be taken, including:

  • Drivers' license and/or passport suspension;
  • Asset seizure;
  • Tax refund seizure; and
  • Jail time and/or probation.


In most cases, the only element that an obligee parent must establish is that the obligor willfully failed to pay support. That is not the same thing as an “intentional” failure to pay; normally, if the obligor paid any other bills during the time period in question, there was a willful failure to pay child support. Involuntary unemployment due to a physical inability to work is typically the only defense.

Unpaid child support is crippling to many Chicago area families. For a confidential consultation with an experienced Naperville family law attorney, contact our office. Convenient payment plans are available.


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