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Child Support and Alimony Payments
American Middle Class

Navigating Financial Setbacks Caused by Late Child Support and Alimony Payments: Strategies for Collecting Past-Due Support

The estimated reading time for this post is 178 seconds

Child support and alimony payments are designed to provide financial support to dependents following a divorce or separation. Unfortunately, not all parents comply with these court-ordered obligations, leading to significant financial setbacks for the custodial parent and their children.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that in 2019, only 43.5% of custodial parents received the total child support they were owed, leaving many families struggling to make ends meet.

The failure to receive timely child support or alimony payments can devastate a family’s financial stability, leading to missed payments on bills, foreclosure, bankruptcy, and even homelessness. 

Fortunately, several steps can be taken to collect past-due child support and alimony payments and mitigate the financial impact of non-payment.

Step 1: Understand Your Legal Rights

Understanding your legal rights is the first step in collecting past-due child support or alimony payments. Every state has its own set of laws and procedures for enforcing child support and alimony orders. 

In some states, custodial parents can file a complaint with their local child support agency, while others may require the services of a private attorney.  

They may have programs to help you locate the non-paying parent, establish paternity if necessary, and enforce support orders. These agencies may also offer services such as mediation, which can help you resolve disputes and reach an agreement without going to court.

Understanding the laws and procedures in your state will help you navigate the process more efficiently and effectively.

Step 2: Contact the Child Support Agency or Attorney

If you are not receiving the child support or alimony payments you are owed, the next step is to contact your local child support agency or attorney. 

They can provide information on how to file a complaint or petition for enforcement and help you locate the non-paying parent if necessary.

Step 3: File a Complaint for Contempt

One of the most effective ways to collect past-due child support or alimony payments is to file a complaint for contempt. This legal action asks the court to hold the non-paying parent in contempt for failing to comply with the original court order. 

If the court finds the non-paying parent in contempt, they may be subject to fines, jail time, and wage garnishment until the arrears are paid in full.

Step 4: Consider Hiring a Private Collection Agency

If the non-paying parent is still not complying with the court order, you may want to consider hiring a private collection agency. These agencies specialize in locating and collecting past-due child support and alimony payments and can be a valuable resource in complex cases. 

However, it’s important to note that these services often charge a fee, which can be a percentage of the recovered amount.

Step 5: Be Persistent and Stay Organized

Collecting past-due child support or alimony payments can be frustrating and time-consuming. It’s essential to be persistent, keep accurate records of all communication and prices received, and stay organized throughout the process. 

This will help you stay on top of the case and ensure that you take all necessary steps to collect the support you and your family owe.


In conclusion, failing to receive timely child support or alimony payments can have serious financial consequences for families. 

By understanding your legal rights, contacting the appropriate agencies, filing a complaint for contempt, considering private collection agencies, and staying organized, you can take steps to collect past-due support and mitigate the financial impact of non-payment. 

It’s important to remember that you are not alone in this process and that resources are available to help you navigate this difficult situation.

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