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Child Support Enforcement

The issue of child support can be easy or problematic, depending on the attitudes of both parents. Some parents just make an agreement together and never have to deal with court ordered child support. However, a lot of child support cases do go to court.

Once a case of child support goes to court, the judge will determine how much child support should be paid by the non-custodial parent. It will then be up to that parent to make the payments as ordered by the court. But what happens when a parent doesn’t pay child support according to the court order?

Automatic State Child Support Enforcement

In some states there is a program setup where people who have not paid child support like they are supposed to, are automatically tracked. They are then charged, or have their wages garnished, in order to make up the payments. However, some people consider that system to be controversial. So, not all states use it.

Working with Child Support Agencies and Friend of the Court Offices

If you have custody of your child and the other parent is not making the child support payments on time, you can try to get them to comply with help from a Friend of the Court or Child Support Agency, depending on where you live. In certain states the child support agencies will work hard to track down the other parent and get them to pay. They may even take legal actions. Those actions might include garnishing the other parent’s wages, or even putting them in jail if they refuse to comply with the court order.

Working Between States

If you live in one state and the other parent lives in another state, you should know that working on child support enforcement between states can be tricky. However, there are private agencies that can help you to connect with state child support agencies in the other state. You may also be able to cut out the middleman entirely and just ask your state child support agency to talk to the agency in the other state. But you should be aware that the rules and guidelines vary quite a bit in each state.

A Separate Court Case

When all else fails, it may be necessary for you to start a new court case in order to get the other parent to comply with their child support obligations. If that happens, you will need to petition the court to examine the situation. The new case will only involve enforcing the payments, not changing the payment amounts or terms of child support.

The Office of Child Support Enforcement

If you still aren’t sure how to enforce child support payments, you can contact the Office of Child Support Enforcement, which works with federal and state agencies to enforce child support payments. Visit their website at to learn what steps you need to take.


Child Support Calculator

If you are concerned that you may have to pay child support, or want to know what amount the other parent may have to pay to you, you should use a child support calculator or formula to estimate the amount that might be owed.


Each state’s child support calculator or formula involves slightly different factors, but there are some things that are common to all states. One of those things is the income calculation. The non-custodial parent’s income will definitely be looked at in order to determine the amount of the child support payment. However, the income of the parent that has custody may also be considered.

For example, if the custodial parent has a full-time job and the non-custodial parent only has a part-time job, or no job at all, a judge may order a very low child support payment. In some cases, the judge may find that no child support has to be paid at all.


Some states will consider the expenses (regular bills) that one or both parents have to pay. A child support payment may go up or down, depending on which parent has to pay more bills. However, many states don’t consider regular bills when determining child support.

Time Spent

In some states, the child support calculator also factors in time spent with the child. For example, in the state of Tennessee child support is primarily determined by the income of the non-custodial parent. However, the percentage paid could go up if the child spends less than 55 nights per year with that parent. If, on the other hand, the child spends more than 110 nights per year with that parent, the parent may not have to pay as much child support.

Medical Needs

Medical needs of the child are also considered in many states. If the child has physical or emotional problems that require therapy or medication, the non-custodial parent may need to pay a higher amount in child support. However, not all states have the same rules or formulas regarding the child’s medical needs.

The Child’s Income and Assets

The child’s income and assets may also be a factor. For example, if he or she is a teenager with a part-time job, the non-custodial parent may not have to pay as much child support. Also, if the child has inherited a large sum of money from a relative, child support payments may be reduced.

Finding and Using a Child Support Calculator

Many websites list links to child support calculators for each state. One of those websites is Once you go to such a site, just choose your state. Then you will be prompted to put in information about your income and other child support information in order to get an estimate of what you will owe or be paid by the other parent. However, it is important to keep in mind that the child support calculator can only give you an estimate. The real amount will be determined by the court.