Enforcement of Support Orders
There are several methods, which can be used to enforce a support order. Effective July 1, 1990 all cases automatically require a wage attachment order. This is a court order, which directs the defendant’s employer to subtract the amount of support from the defendant’s paycheck and pay this amount directly to the Domestic Relations Section within 10 days. Wage attachments also can be used on unemployment compensation, worker’s disability, and some pension benefits.
If payments are not being made despite the wage attachment, or if the defendant is not paying the full amount as ordered, the case is eligible for enforcement action. A notice of non-compliance is mailed to defendants who fail to make regular support payments or have not made a payment in 30 days.
This notice reminds the defendant of his or her duty to pay, and of the legal problems caused by failure to pay support. If the defendant continues to not make payments, he or she is in violation of the court Order, and contempt of court procedures may be started. This includes a Contempt Hearing to determine whether or not the defendant is in contempt of Court. Through these contempt proceedings a defendant can be forced to find employment, make a lump sum payment, or be put in jail by order of a Judge after a finding of willful contempt at the Contempt Hearing.
In addition, federal income tax refunds may be intercepted (taken) and applied to back support. The Domestic Relations Section will automatically apply for an IRS Tax Refund Intercept on all qualifying cases. To qualify for the IRS intercept program, all of the following eligibility requirements must be met:
- Only child support can be collected. Your support order must be for child support only. However, spousal support may be included if the same order includes support for both spouse and child (ren).
- There must be at least $500.00 in past-due child support payments (or $150.00 if arrears owed to welfare) and 1 month of arrears (or 3 months of arrears if arrears are owed to welfare) for a case to qualify for IRS Intercept. Any money owed to welfare will be paid first from any IRS tax refund received. “Retroactive” arrears (those arrears which occur between the time the case is started and the time the Order is entered) cannot be collected by IRS Tax Refund Intercept. Each month, the PACSES system automatically submits eligible cases for IRS Intercept.
- The child must be under 18 years of age as of December 31st of the tax year you are applying for.
- We must have the correct social security number of the person who owes the child support payments.
If you have any questions about the IRS intercept program, write:
Clearfield County Domestic Relations
230 East Market Street, Suite 300
Clearfield, PA 16830
Phone: (814) 765-5339
Fax: (814) 765-1751
Domestic Relations will automatically submit your case every year as long as it meets all of the requirements listed above.
If a defendant owes back support (arrears) Domestic Relations may report him or her to the Credit Bureau. The plaintiff does not have to request this action, because it is done automatically by the PACSES system. In order for this to happen the defendant must be at least 60 days in arrears. The defendant’s arrears are then reported to the credit bureau. This, in turn, affects the defendant’s credit rating.
Any past due support becomes a lien automatically. If the person who owes the support is buying, selling, or refinancing real property and owes past due support, the automatically resulting lien would normally have to be paid in full before he or she would be allowed to buy, sell, or refinance the property. Title companies, banks, and mortgage companies routinely contact the Domestic Relations Section to verify if the person involved in a real estate transaction owes any past due support, and if so, how much.
According to law, any child support payment that is not paid when due automatically becomes a judgment after thirty (30) days. This means that the judgment will have full force and effect like any other judgment of court, and will be enforceable in this or any other state. This judgment will end when all past due support has been paid. Domestic Relations keeps an account of all support payments made under court Order. The records of the Domestic Relations are used to determine the amount of the judgment.
A judgment becomes a lien against property and can be enforced for past due support against such defendants who are selling or refinancing property. That lien would normally have to be paid in full before they would be allowed to sell or refinance their property.
Note: Also, Title companies are required to receive a certification of balances due.
Driver’s License Suspension: Recent changes to the law allow for suspension of driver’s licenses if a payor is delinquent in the payment of his or her support debt.
Parents who are three months or more behind in child support payments can face suspension of their driver’s licenses until they pay their obligations.
- In June 1999, the Commonwealth’s Department of Public Welfare sent more than 56,000 letters to people who were one month or more behind in payments to warn them that their licenses could be suspended.
- Starting July 14, 1999, people whose licenses are in jeopardy are being sent a “notice of intent to suspend.”
- They will have 30 days to contest the amount of past due support and can speak with a child support enforcement officer about special circumstances that prevented them from paying, such as illness or job layoff.
- The local Domestic Relations Section will decide whether the license should be suspended.
- After 30 days, the statewide computer system (PACSES) will generate an alert for enforcement officers in local domestic relations offices, and will print out an Order of suspension.
- Once the order is signed by a judge, the information will be sent via computer to the state Department of Transportation, which will process the license suspension.
- Parents will be required to send their licenses to PennDOT in Harrisburg and will not have them returned until the department gets verification from the local domestic relations section that the parents have paid their support debts, made payment plans, or had their wages attached.
The suspension of a Pennsylvania Driver’s License is a support enforcement remedy which is authorized the federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 and by Pennsylvania Act 58 of 1997 (effective January 1, 1998). The state regulation may be found at 23 Pa. C.S.A. Section 4355.