Child Support Enforcement

When two parents do not live together, Arizona courts will generally issue an order instructing one parent to submit regular child support payments to the custodial parent. In some situations, child support is paid as ordered and the parents do not have any disputes regarding payments. Unfortunately, in many other situations, a parent may fail to make one or even several payments. Failing to pay child support can have a significant effect on the quality of life of a child and their parent and they may have to rely on welfare and other government programs to support their household. In such situations, Arizona law gives parents ways to enforce the court order so they receive the support they are owed.

Ways to Enforce a Child Support Order in Arizona

A parent can report non-payment to the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS), which has several different ways of pursuing unpaid support. Some of the tactics that DCSS can use to collect owed support include the following:

  • Withholding income — DCSS can order employers to withhold the required amount of child support directly from the parent’s paycheck. If the parent owes past child support, an additional amount can be withheld to cover arrears. An employer will then be aware of the parent’s child support obligations and non-payment.
  • Credit reporting — Having negative marks and accounts not paid as agreed on a credit report can substantially affect a parent’s ability to obtain credit cards or purchase a home or car, and can even hinder professional opportunities. DCSS can regularly report non-payment to the credit bureaus, which will significantly lower the parent’s credit score.
  • Seizure of assets — If a parent has not paid child support for 12 months or more, DCSS can obtain a court order to seize funds directly from the parent’s bank accounts, mutual funds, trust, or other types of financial accounts.
  • Tax return interception — If a parent owes more than $50 in unpaid child support, DCSS can intercept their tax return and take out the amount owed before delivering the rest–if any–to the parent.
  • Property liens — When the state puts a lien on a parent’s home or other property, the property cannot be sold until the parent paid the amount they owe in back child support.
  • Lottery winnings interception — If a parent wins more than $600 in the lottery, DCSS can intercept the winnings to cover unpaid support.
  • License suspension — If a parent owes child support for six months or more, DCSS has the power to file for a suspension of their driver’s license, recreational license, or even a professional license.

In additional to actions taken by DCSS, a parent who is owed child support can report the non-payment to the court. The court can hold the non-paying parent in contempt for failing to obey a court order and can impose fines or even jail time. In addition, state or federal prosecutors can choose to file criminal charges for non-payment of support if the parent owes more than $5000 and has not paid for at least six months. Once a warrant is issued for the parent’s arrest, DCSS can post the parent’s photo and information on its “wanted” website.


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