In this article, we will explain the consequences of unpaid child support in Illinois. We will discuss how to enforce child support through the Illinois Department of Child Support Services, as well as how to enforce child support through the court system. For more on how to enforce a child support order, check out our article, How to Enforce Child Support in Illinois.
For an overview of Illinois child support law, check out our article: Illinois Child Support 2019.
If a parent fails or refuses to pay court-approved child support, the other parent may contact the Illinois Division of Child Support Services (DCSS). Once a custodial parent notifies the state agency of the non-custodial parent’s failure to provide payment, the DCSS starts monitoring all payment activities of the non-custodial parent (if a custodial parent is receiving public assistance, this monitoring is automatic).
Once a non-custodial parent does not pay child support over a six-month time period, or if the non-custodial parent owes the custodial parent more than $5,000, DCSS may initiate a request for state or prosecution of the non-custodial parent for failure to pay. Fines and imprisonment depend on the severity of the non-payment; for example, an individual may be convicted of a Class A misdemeanor for failing to pay child support for six months or owing more than $5,000. However, this charge could be classified as a Class 4 felony with imprisonment for one to three years if the same individual owed more than $20,000.
You do not need an attorney to work with the DCSS. However, an attorney may facilitate the process, save you time, and help you achieve a quicker and more favorable outcome. Attorneys are also generally better equipped to handle more complicated cases.
The DCSS often has a backlog of cases. An alternative to working through the DCSS to enforce child support is to work with your attorney to enforce your child support order through the court system. This may give you a quicker result and a wider range of remedies.
If a parent refuses to pay child support, the other parent may ask for a hearing before an Illinois judge. The non-custodial parent will then be served with an official document, ordering him or her to attend a court-ordered hearing. The non-paying parent is given a chance to explain why he or she is not paying the owed child support. If this individual does not attend the hearing, the court may issue a warrant for his or her arrest.
Even if the non-custodial parent does attend the hearing, the Illinois judge can still send him or her to jail for violating the court-ordered child support agreement. Depending on the non-custodial parent’s reasoning for failure to provide payment, the judge may order him or her to make future payments or agree to a payment schedule to make up for the unpaid child support. The judge can also order the non-custodial parent’s wages be withheld, a lien be placed on his or her property, or even that he or she must post a bond or other assets.
Judges rarely send a parent to jail, due to the fact that a jailed parent cannot earn income to pay child support, but depending on the severity of the situation, it is always a possibility. Jail time is usually only ordered if an income withholding order or wage garnishment are not viable options.