A mother (now on probation for a financial felony) has not paid child support for years. The state child support agency checked and said she has no employment income, but she drives a new car.

What are the possible steps to enforce child support payments? (This is in the state of Georgia, USA.) I prefer approaches that do not involve paying an attorney, since that fast becomes expensive and counterproductive.

  • 2
    You will probably need an attorney because you'll have to subpoena financial records of she is hiding income as you say. Try talking to a family court advocate first, you might be able to bring her in front of a judge to explain why she can afford a new car but not child support.
    – Ron Beyer
    May 12 at 22:48
  • 2
    @RonBeyer not necessarily, the OP could go to law school and learn how to do it themselves. But that becomes expensive too.
    – Dale M
    May 13 at 1:08
  • 1
    @DaleM I suppose selling your soul to become a lawyer is an expensive price :D
    – Ron Beyer
    May 13 at 1:23
  • @RonBeyer I searched the web on "family court advocate" and "Georgia" but did not anything useful. Do you know of any websites for such advocates in Georgia?
    – user3270
    May 13 at 15:03
  • 1
    Call the family court, ask to speak to an advocate.
    – Ron Beyer
    May 13 at 15:56

What are the possible steps to enforce child support payments? (This is in the state of Georgia, USA.) I prefer approaches that do not involve paying an attorney, since that fast becomes expensive and counterproductive.

Child support generally either is, or can be reduced to, by court process, a money judgment. The money judgment can then be enforced by writ of execution and levy attaching tangible personal property of a debtor, to the extent that the asset is not exempt from creditors claims. The money judgment can also be used to garnish bank accounts.

If someone has a manifest ability to pay child support, but has willfully failed to do so, a court can incarcerate the child support debtor for contempt of court until such time as the child support debt voluntarily turns over the assets that the debtor has an ability to pay the child support debt with. In theory, however, an inability to pay child support is a full defense to a contempt of court proceeding.

All of these kinds of legal child support collection proceedings are technical, and it would be very challenging to accomplish these goals through the court process without a lawyer. The going rate for contingent fee collection of child support debts is usually 50% of the gross amount recovered, plus out of pocket costs for filing fees and process servers out of your half, if you can find an attorney willing to take on a child support collection case at all.

Sometimes collection agencies will agree to collect child support for a similar fee. Collection agencies can make negative credit reports, and nag the child support debtor regularly, but otherwise have the same remedies available to them as a lawyer.

Many states have procedures for the state child support collection agency to seize tax refunds, to revoke occupational and professional licenses, and to revoke driver's licenses if child support is not paid. Usually, state child support collection agencies either exclusively serve, or prioritize, cases where child support is owed to someone who has received state welfare benefits, and it applies some or all of the proceeds received to the welfare payments made to the child support beneficiary.

Not paying child support might be a probation violation that could be reported to the child support debtor's probation officer. But, causing the child support debtor to be incarcerated for failing to observe probation terms doesn't naturally or easily translate into providing the child support creditor with money.

Ultimately, you can't get blood out of a turnip. If someone doesn't have an ability to pay child support, they won't. A new car is suspicious and probably indicates that there was some under the table work done. But, by the time it is seized, it is a used car, and its fair market value at auction may be quite modest. Whether or not it is cost effective is for you to decide.

I once tried to collect a money judgment of about $100,000 from a drug dealer which presented similar problems. It wasn't easy. It rarely is. There is no quick, inexpensive way of doing it.

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