What Happens When You Don't Pay Child Support in Illinois?

By Mary Jane Freeman

Frustrated mother with children on phone

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Every child has a right to receive care and support from her parents, and this parental responsibility doesn't end simply because a relationship or marriage ends. In Illinois, a non-custodial parent must financially contribute to the upbringing of his child by providing child support to the custodial parent. If he fails to do so, the custodial parent may seek help from Illinois' Division of Child Support Services, which pursues several remedies, including wage garnishment, property liens, revocation of licenses, interception of tax refunds and criminal prosecution.

Child Support Enforcement Program

The national Child Support Enforcement program works in partnership with states to ensure children are financially supported by their parents. This is done by locating non-custodial parents, establishing paternity and support obligations, and enforcing child support orders. At the state level, this responsibility is carried out by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services' Division of Child Support Services, typically through its regional county offices. Once awarded, child support orders are recorded in the DCSS database and payments subsequently monitored. Once a custodial parent notifies DCSS of the other parent's failure to pay court-awarded child support, DCSS begins collection activity against the non-paying parent. However, if a custodial parent is receiving public assistance, this is done automatically.

Wage Garnishment

Once a parent enlists the help of DCSS, the agency first attempts to collect past-due child support from the non-custodial parent's wages, commonly referred to as wage garnishment. DCSS serves the parent's employer with an Income Withholding for Support request and instructs the employer to withhold an additional amount in child support from the parent's earnings. The order remains in effect until the past-due balance is paid in full. If the non-custodial parent is not subject to income withholding, DCSS may require him to post a bond, security or other guarantee of payment.

Other Financial Attachments

If wage garnishment is unsuccessful or not possible, DCSS will employ other methods to collect past-due child support, either one at a time or in combination. These methods include the interception of federal and state tax refunds, seizure of bank accounts, and property liens. Before taking such action, however, DCSS will send a letter to the non-custodial parent informing him of the department's intentions. DCSS may also employ private collection agencies to assist with the collection effort.

Revocation of Licenses

In addition to attaching wages and seizing property, DCSS may request the suspension, revocation or denial of a non-custodial parent's driver's license, U.S. passport, or professional, occupational or recreational license for non-payment of child support. Under the Family Financial Responsibility Act, DCSS may eliminate a non-custodial parent's driving privileges once the parent becomes 90 days or more delinquent with child support payments. A non-custodial parent may avoid this action by paying all past-due child support before the effective date of the suspension.

Criminal Prosecution

If a non-custodial parent refuses to pay court-ordered child support for more than a six-month period or owes more than $5,000, DCSS may request state or federal prosecution of the parent for non-payment of child support. The non-custodial parent may face fines and imprisonment, with the amount of fines and duration of imprisonment increasing with the severity of the non-payment. For example, a non-custodial parent may be convicted of a Class A misdemeanor for failing to pay child support for six months or owing more than $5,000. However, that same parent could be charged with a Class 4 felony and imprisoned for one to three years if he is more than $20,000 past due in his child support obligation.