With state coffers in decline and the demand for social services on the rise, many states, including Minnesota, have sometimes been challenged in trying to collecting back child support payments. In Minnesota alone, child support debt amounts to $1.65 billion.
As part of the crackdown, many states have employed a variety of means to prompt non-paying parents to satisfy their legal obligation. Common measures used include federal and state tax offsets, blocking the renewal of passports and licenses, imposing a levy on bank accounts and even imposing jail time.
Though child support debt in Minnesota is high, child support issues are often more complex than the non-custodial parent simply not wanting to pay. For instance, given the state of the economy, many people may not be able to pay as much as they could when the economy was strong. These individuals can seek to modify their child support order.
A court will not relieve these individuals of child support payments already due, but they can lower future obligations based on the individual's current income if the individual has an adequate reason for the reduction in income. Involuntary unemployment or a significant downturn in business for a business owner typically would qualify as an acceptable reason for a reduction, or on occasion a pause, in his or her obligation to pay. Declines in income because the individual is hiding a portion of income would not.
On the other hand, for custodial parents whose ex-spouse has the means to pay, but elects not to, the custodial parent can go to court to get the child support order enforced. Typically, the state will employ the means mentioned above such as withholding federal tax refunds, garnishing wages, seizing property, or suspending or revoking the person's license. If those do not work, the state may throw the person in jail.
Source: KIMT-TV, "Special report: states focus on collecting child support," Jenna Lee, May 14, 2012; FindLaw, "Enforcement of Child Support: FAQ's," undated