Divorce may create the legal end to marriages, but it does not end relationships, particularly when ex-spouses have children. The final divorce decree sets forth many conditions, and the most important settlement issues involve custody, parenting time and financial support of the children. Unless parents take legal action to change them, these terms are basically set in stone.
When either parent fails to make child support payments, the other parent sometimes withholds visitation in an effort to correct the issue. These actions are illegal, but a call to our Minnesota child support lawyers can help open the door to legally-valid enforcement options.
MN Law Provides a Variety of Methods for Resolving Unpaid Child Support Issues
In cases involving spouses who receive or have received public assistance, the final divorce decree most likely includes provisions requiring income withholding through the Minnesota Child Support Center, a department of the Department of Human Services (DHS), to pay child support. As explained in a document on child support laws issued by the MN House of Representatives, however, other cases requiring enforcement of child support can use the same system.
In addition to income withholding, MN law provides an array of remedies to unpaid child support. Some of the more common approaches include:
- Judgment docketing and real property lien: The courts can issue a civil judgment against a person who owes child support (the obligor) and attach a lien to the obligor’s real property, including motor vehicles or even a homestead.
- Driver’s license suspension: In some cases, obligors can lose their driving rights; however, they can apply for a one-time 90-day limited license if they meet qualifications.
- Other license suspensions: Obligors might lose the privileges afforded by recreational licenses. Even more important, they can face suspension of occupational licenses.
- Payment agreements: Obligors who fall behind in support payments can avoid certain enforcement actions by entering into and complying with a written, court-approved payment agreement.
- Action against employers: Employers are prohibited from discriminating against individuals who are subject to child support withholding. If they do not follow withholding orders and related laws, they can face legal action to require compliance.
By imposing serious penalties — and using many available tools to remain apprised of the actions of non-paying parents — DHS seeks to help the children of divorce by getting to the roots of the problems and taking action to resolve them.
Proper Legal Action is the Only Appropriate Response to Non-Payment
MN law is heavily slanted toward looking out for the best interests of the children, but it also works against individuals who attempt to take the law into their own hands. The children can suffer when child support payments do not arrive in full and on time. Still, restricting visitation or taking any other type of punitive personal action against a non-paying spouse means that both spouses are non-compliant with the law. Just as important, these acts do nothing to resolve non-payment issues.
The laws surrounding child support compliance can be complex and confusing. When issues arise, you should seek immediate advice and support from a knowledgeable attorney. Call us at (763) 783-5146 or use our convenient contact form to arrange an initial consultation.