What can you do if a parent fails to pay court ordered child support or a spouse fails to pay spousal support?
As a mediator I often encourage my clients to include a process for resolving disagreements about what is owed in a less expensive, less combative and more efficient way. All to offen a parent or unpaid spouse spends more in attorney fees to collect what is owed in court. In my opinion mediation or arbitration clauses should be included in all family support orders to allow parties to enforce the court ordered financial obligations. However, if alternative dispute resolutions are not in your orders and your ex will not agree to mediation or arbitration, what you need to know.
How do I enforce and collect unpaid support?
In a divorce with children Washington State Law (“WSL”) requires an Order of Child Support which is basically your financial plan for supporting your children until they reach the age of 18. If the child support order requires a parent to pay through the Washington State Support Registry (WSSR) , the Division of Child Support (DCS) will opens up a child support case for you and enforce any unpaid support payments.
If your court order does not direct your ex to pay through the WSSR, you can apply for DCS services and request their assistance in collecting unpaid support even if your order comes from another state. DCS’s collections services are free. Please note that DCS does not collect unpaid interest.
If there is a lot of back support, you may find a lawyer who will take the case on a contingent basis. You do not pay the lawyer a fee up front. The lawyer gets a portion of the back payments as payment for services.
How do I change the child support amount?
Either parent can file a motion in court to change the child support amount under certain conditions, such as:
- The income if one or both parents changes greatly
- The support amount has not been adjusted for 2 years or more
- The child no longer lives with the parent who receiving support
A better alternative is to agree upon a mediator or arbitrator who can work with you to review and adjust support. It is usually faster and less expensive. If you are working with DCS, they too can assist you.