NH Child Support – According to the Division of Child Support Services less than half of parents awarded child support payments actually receive payment in full. Notwithstanding this sobering statistic, there are tools available to a parent who is owed child support that can be utilized to collect monies owed.
If the parent ordered to pay support has steady employment, a wage assignment can be an effective tool to ensure support payments are made. A wage assignment allows the court to order an employer to make direct payments to the parent from the wages of the non-supporting parent. Once a Child Support Order is established and a wage assignment is ordered, that Order must be served upon the parent’s employer. The employer is required to deduct child support like any other deduction from the nonpaying parent’s paycheck and send the money directly to the parent with residential responsibility.
That being said, all too often a non-paying parent is hiding to avoid paying child support or frequently moves and changes jobs to avoid detection. In an effort to remedy this problem, the federal government created the Parental Locator Service. This governmental agency operates in conjunction with the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service designed to find the non-paying parent and has the power to seize their tax refund and or attach a wage assignment.
For more information on the Parent Locator Service, contact the local office of the Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, Office of Child Support Enforcement.
Another agency designed to locate non-paying parents is the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE). This agency operates a database called the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH), established by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) for the purposes of assisting state child support agencies in locating parents who already have a wage assignment but have changed jobs in order to avoid detection. Under this Act, employers are required by law to report all new hires within 20 days of hire.
It is far more difficult to collect from a non-wage earner than to collect from standard W-2 employees because their earnings are more difficult to verify or seize. People who work for cash, who do contract or project work and are paid directly by customers or clients, or who are otherwise able to hide income or assets from detection may have an easier time avoiding disclosure of their income. In difficult cases, use of the resources above, including seeking a lien against the non-paying parent’s real estate, or bank account can be an effective way to collect unpaid support.
Another effective tool is filing a civil contempt. If found in contempt, the judge has the authority to not only attach a wage assignment to include unemployment income and worker’s compensation funds, but a judge can revoke a nonpaying parent’s driver’s license, professional licenses, recreational licenses, passports, attach a lien to property, intercept tax refunds and lottery winnings. See New Hampshire Code, Title LXII, Chapter 639:4, 651:2 . If the non-paying parent is found in willful disobedience of a child support order, that parent can be subject to jail time, which is discussed in more detail below. However, parents showing they did not have the ability to pay will not be found in contempt of court; nonetheless they will continue to owe the money. Another avenue is reporting non-payments to the national credit bureaus, which will adversely affect the nonpaying parent’s credit rating and may act as an incentive for the parent to pay up.
Also a parent can file a complaint with the New Hampshire district attorney regarding unpaid child support by a parent who lives out of state. The local district attorney can contact a district attorney in the locale where the non-paying parent lives and that office can then bring an action to enforce the New Hampshire order.
In New Hampshire it is a class B felony if the no paying parent has an arrearage that has accumulated unpaid for more than one year, or an arrearage of more than $10,000.00, or if the non-payer who has been previously convicted of a similar nonsupport offense in another state with an arrearage that has remained unpaid for more than one year. All other cases of nonpayment are considered class A misdemeanors.
Punishments for nonpayment of child support include probation, conditional or unconditional discharge, a fine, or imprisonment, with a maximum term of 1 year for a class A misdemeanor and up to 7 years for a class B felony.
Often the mere threat of jail is sufficient to cause the non-paying parent to pay. Realistically speaking, jail is not one of the first measures that should be taken because of the practical problems involving a jailed parent’s inability to earn money while incarcerated, or potentially even losing employment altogether.