Kansas Laws on Nonpayment of Child Support
By Beverly Bird
Federal laws set out some child support enforcement measures, but a lot of the rules and remedies trickle down to the state level. Each district court in Kansas stands by to help custodial parents collect support, but enforcement ultimately falls to the Child Support Services Division of the Kansas Department for Children and Families. Some counties have court trustees that can help, too.
Child support enforcement doesn’t become an issue until the noncustodial parent is in arrears. In Kansas, this means he hasn’t made a payment in the last 30 days, which triggers collection efforts by CSS if he's been paying through state services. Any balance that remains unpaid after 30 days constitutes arrears. For example, if a parent’s total obligation for the month is $950, and he pays $300, the partial payment won’t prevent enforcement measures. He’s still $650 behind, and this amount is subject to various methods of collection.
All Kansas child support payments are processed through the Kansas Payment Center. Court orders and divorce decrees for support include this requirement. A custodial parent can decline the service, but payments not made through the KPC aren't officially credited to the noncustodial parent or tracked by CSS.
Unless a noncustodial parent is self-employed or unemployed, CSS will initiate an income-withholding order and serve it on his employer when a custodial parent signs up for services. The employer is then obligated to withhold the amount of the parent's child support -- plus a percentage for any arrears -- from his pay and send it to the KPC. If the noncustodial parent changes jobs, CSS can transfer the order to his new workplace. CSS will take additional action if there are significant arrears, but the backlog of cases needing attention can get long, so enforcement efforts might not happen immediately. Custodial parents are free to approach the court directly, either on their own or with the assistance of an attorney or legal aid office, rather than wait for assistance from CSS.
The CSS can reach out to the federal government for help when a noncustodial parent is in arrears. With federal cooperation, Kansas can have a noncustodial parent’s passport denied if he owes more than $2,500 in back support, or intercept his federal tax refund. Federal law also provides for criminal charges if a noncustodial parent intentionally moves across state lines to try to avoid paying child support.
Kansas goes by the same rules as many other states. CSS can act administratively – without court approval – to take enforcement steps. A noncustodial parent can lose his driver’s license, recreational licenses and professional licenses if he’s in arrears. Liens can be placed against real or personal property he owns so he can’t sell it or refinance it without first paying child support. Arrears are reported to the credit bureaus. Kansas can also charge a parent with contempt of court if he willfully refuses to pay support, which can result in jail time. However, the judge will generally offer a payment arrangement to help him catch up before ordering incarceration.
Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.