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Collecting Support from a Deadbeat

by Wes Cowell; updated 30 July 2015 -- suggest a correction


Illinois law is very strong for child support collection. So is federal law. These cases are VERY technical. We handle a lot of cases on contingency — we don't get paidunless we collect — and we can shift the fees to the deadbeat so you end up paying nothing!  Need advice?  Call, leave your info., or scheduleschedule a consult.


Contempt:  Contempt is the most common way to enforce support orders against a deadbeat. Since 2005 it has been possible to seek contempt findings against a deadbeat obligor even after the children are emancipated.   Illinois law 750 ILCS 5/505 (i) was changed in 2005 to allow contempt actions even though there is no ongoing obligation to pay "current" support.  There is no statute of limitations on child support collection.


Liens:  Unpaid child support obligations automatically become judgments.  They may be enforced just like any other judgment.  Liens may be placed on any of the obligor's assets -- bank accounts, homes, cars, etc.  See, 735 ILCS 5/12-101 et seq.


Driver's License Suspension:  Illinois has adopted a "Deadbeat's Don't Drive" law that allows for the suspension of an obligor's driving privileges when child support is more than 90 days past due.  That's important.  Most enforcement mechanisms require a finding of contempt which isn't always cheap and easy to come by.  Getting your hands on an "authenticated report" showing the arrearage is more than 90 days old, however, can be as simple as making a single phone call.


The law has real teeth, too.  When Illinois suspends a deadbeat's driver's license for non-payment of support, that suspension is recognized in at least 40 other states and the District of Columbia. The law says: 


"The court may also order in cases where the parent is 90 days or more delinquent in payment of support or has been adjudicated in arrears in an amount equal to 90 days obligation or more, that the parent's Illinois driving privileges be suspended until the court determines that the parent is in compliance with the order of support."

750 ILCS 5/505(b)


The driver's-license-suspension law applies to parentage cases (never-married parents) as well, at 750 ILCS 45/15(d).


The procedure for getting all the authenticated papers to the Secretary of State and handling requests for family financial responsibility permits can be found in the Illinois Vehicle Code.


QDROs:  If the obligor has a pension or retirement plan through his employer, a QDRO may be prepared under federal law to grab the child support portion.  The Retirement Equity Act of 1984, 29 USC  Sec. 1056(D)(3)(B)(ii), and 26 USC Sec. 414(p)(1)(B) says "any judgment or order . . . which (i) relates to the provision of child support . . . payments . . . and (ii) is made pursuant to a State domestic relations law" qualifies as a QDRO.  


Call my office so we can determine if the obligor's retirement plan can be attacked with a QDRO.  Plans set up under the Illinois Pension Code and federal plans are exempt.  We subpoena the obligor's account statements and the plan's summary description.   The total arrearage and interest are combined in the QDRO and we insure that the withdrawal is taxed to the obligor, not our client.


Periodic Imprisonment with Work Release:  This law is still on the books but almost never employed because folks just don't know to ask for it.   Illinois law allows deadbeats to be incarcerated for up to six months at a time and let out only to go to work.  Years ago the Cook County Sheriff maintained "The House of Correction."  Today, the House of Correction is shut down, but the law is still there and can be brought up in court.  It's not a bad deal:   the deadbeat is be locked up, awakend at 06:00 and given a bad cup of coffee.  He's let out to go to work and must report back by 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. for nightly lock up.  Lights out at 10:00 p.m.  The next day it's the same story.  This goes on and the Sheriff collects the deadbeat's paycheck and turns it over to the Clerk of the Court.  The ENTIRE paycheck may be turned over to satisfy the support arrearage.


Out of State Gambling Winnings:  Illinois has not adopted a gambling-winnings intercept law (the casino lobby in Springfield is very powerful and they don't like these laws), but a lot of other states have.  Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, and West Virginia all have the power to intercept gambling winning right at the casino payout window.  If your obligor lives in, or is planning to visit, a state that allows the interception of gambling winnings, call my office.  We can make sure your support order is properly registered for interstate interception and get the proper notices off to the casino's the obligor may visit.  We'll need a social security number.  


Lottery Winnings:  We've succeeded at intercepting Lottery winnings.  When an obligor hits the lottery, he usually brags about it.  When you hear the bragging, call a lawyer and get the obligor's name and social security number.


Credit Reporting Bureaus:  Under Illinois law the court is supposed to direct the Clerk of Court to send notice to consumer reporting agencies whenever an unpaid support obligation reaches $10,000 or three months' worth of support.   Federal law (the Ted Weiss Child Support Enforcement Act of 1992) requires the credit reporting agencies to include information from states identifying child support arrearages on any consumer credit report.  


Shaming Publication:  Illinois law also says that in cases where the support arrearage is more than $10,000 or three months' worth, if the obligor lives in the same county where the case is being heard, the court is supposed to direct the Clerk of Court to publish the name and address of the deadbeat in a newspaper of general circulation in the area in which the obligor resides.


Criminal Prosecution:  Non-paying obligors can face up to a Class 4 felony charge (1 - 3 years imprisonment).


Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act:  A federal law (18 USC section 228) makes it a felony (up to two years' incarceration and a restitution order to pay the full amount of past due support) to travel across state lines or to a foreign country to evade paying child support or for failing to pay support greater than $10,000 or for a support obligation that has remained unpaid for more than two years. 


Currency Exchanges:  Deadbeats have no excuse for not getting payments in on time.  Illinois law allows child support payments to be made at currency exchanges.  The currency exchange then forwards the payment with the case identifying information to the SDU.


In IV-D cases:  "IV-D" refers to Title IV-D (pronounced "four-D") of the Social Security Act of 1975 and can be found at 42 U.S.C. Ch. 7, Subchapter IV, Part D.


Passport Denial:  This might seem a bit esoteric -- most people who can afford travel that requires a passport manage to pay their child support.  Still there are cases where a deadbeat travels internationally.  Federal law (42 USC 652(k)) requires the U.S. Secretary of State to deny a deadbeat's passport application and authorizes the Secretary to revoke, restrict, or limit a deadbeat's existing passport if the arrearage is greater than $2,500.


The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services is to report to the Secretary of Health and Human Services appropriate identifying information in IV-D cases where the arrearage is greater than $2,500.  89 Ill. Asm. Code 160.70(k).  It works, too.  In the early days, the program netted $89,000 from a deadbeat in Germany -- the largest single haul of child support arrearages the State of Illinois has ever collected.    



Suspension of Professional or Occupational Certificate:  Illinois Administrative Procedure Act (5 ILCS 100) allows for the denial, suspension, or revocation of a deadbeat's professional / occupational license.  This coercive tactic is available only in IV-D cases under 305 ILCS 5/10-17.6.


An application for a new license shall . . . require the licensee to certify on the application form, under penalty of perjury, that he or she is not more than 30 days delinquent in complying with a child support order.


Upon a final finding of delinquency . . . the agency shall suspend, revoke, or refuse to issue or renew the license. In cases . . . in which a court has previously determined that an applicant or licensee has been in violation of the Non-Support Punishment Act for more than 60 days, the licensing agency shall refuse to issue or renew or shall revoke or suspend that person's license based solely upon the . . . certification of violation made by the court. Further process, hearings, or redetermination of the delinquency or violation by the licensing agency shall not be required.

5 ILCS 100/10-65


To verify your deadbeat's standing with his / her licensing board, check the "license lookup" app at the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.


Impounding Obligor's Vehicle:  This is another coercive tactic avaiable only in IV-D cases at 305 ILCS 5/10-17.13.


Intercepting Federal and State Tax Refunds:  The state has the authority and ability to intercept federal and state tax refunds.


Denial of Hunting and Fishing Licenses:  Cases going through the IV-D Administrative system are also registered with the Illinois DNR.  The DNR's point-of-sale system for hunting and fishing licenses cross-references applicants against a database of deadbeats.  If an obligor owes more than $1,000 in past-due child support, hunting / fishing licenses are denied.



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