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When your ex won’t pay their support: What you can (and cannot) do

Fall is just around the corner and your child has suddenly grown out of their jeans and shoes — again. You need every penny of the child support that their other parent owes. That makes it doubly infuriating when they offer you half-hearted excuses for why they aren’t paying.

You may be tempted to retaliate in the only way you know how: cutting off their visitation to their child. After all, why should they have all of the privileges of being a parent without any of the responsibility, right?

Wrong. Child support and visitation are two completely different issues. As much as they may seem directly related, that isn’t the view of the court. While your actions may be understandable, they’re not legally permissible — and you can end up in serious trouble.

So what can you do instead? Here in Pennsylvania, the Bureau of Child Support Enforcement (BCSE) has control over child support payments, so that’s the place you can turn. BCSE can take a number of steps to make your ex pay up, including:

  • Suspending their driver’s license or professional license
  • Suspending their occupational licenses
  • Suspending recreational license (like hunting and fishing)
  • Putting liens against their property
  • Garnishing their wages, bank accounts or workers’ comp payments
  • Seizing their tax returns
  • Publicly shaming them as a delinquent parent
  • Asking the court to hold them in civil contempt and impose jail time and fines

If you’re a custodial parent who is owed child support, you don’t have to try to handle the situation alone (and you shouldn’t). Don’t endanger your own legal position in an attempt to make your ex comply with the order. Talk to an attorney instead.