Child Support Liens and the Lien Docket

Federal and state laws give child support agencies the option of using "administrative enforcement" actions. Administrative enforcement allows the child support agency to act without going to court. In Wisconsin, these actions are based on the child support lien.

Child Support Lien

A child support lien is a hold placed on property (such as land and cars) until past-due child support is paid. These liens will be placed without a court hearing. Liens must be paid off (satisfied) or released before the parent can sell the property. In most cases, a lien is automatically created when past-due support is $500 or more. The child support lien amount does not include unpaid birth costs, fees, or interest.

Child Support Lien Docket

The Child Support Lien Docket is an electronic list of all parents with child support liens in Wisconsin. This list includes the names of parents owing past-due support and their lien amounts. The Department of Children and Families maintains the Child Support Lien Docket. The Lien Docket is a public record.

Notices to Parents About the Lien Docket

Before any action is taken, child support will mail a written notice to the parent at the address listed with the child support agency. Parents can update their addresses with the Child Support Online Services website or by contacting their child support agency.

  • Notice 1:
    When a parent is listed on the Child Support Lien Docket, a "Notice of Lien and Credit Bureau Reporting" is mailed to the parent. The notice tells the parent the amount of the lien and the date that it was listed on the docket. This notice also describes the parent's rights and the procedures for disputing the lien amount.
  • Notice 2:
    Before any additional enforcement actions are taken, this notice is mailed to the parent. The notice informs the parent of the right to a hearing. The hearing only looks at whether or not the child support debt is correct. The hearing is not about the type of action planned. The notice will also tell the parent what actions can be avoided if the parent agrees to and follows a payment plan. Parents should contact their child support agency to set up a payment plan.

Parents who are owed support may ask their child support agency to notify them if any action under the Lien Docket is taken against the other parent. The parent should put this request in writing.

What Will Happen When a Parent is Placed on the Lien Docket

When a parent is listed on the Child Support Lien Docket:

  • A lien will be placed on the parent's real property (home, land) and on titled property (car, truck). Child support liens must be paid off (satisfied) or released before the parent can sell the property.
  • Child support will report the lien to credit bureaus. This could affect the parent's ability to get loans.
  • State agencies will deny grants and loans to the parent. These grants and loans include student loans and higher education grants, as well as mortgage loans from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA). If a parent agrees to and follows a payment plan, the parent may receive these grants and loans.

What Might Happen When a Parent is Placed on the Lien Docket

The child support agency may also take these enforcement actions against those listed on the Lien Docket:

  • Intercept lump-sum pension payments from public retirement funds, such as the retirement funds for Wisconsin state employees, City of Milwaukee, and Milwaukee County employees. (Periodic payments from public retirement funds are not intercepted)
  • Intercept judgments or settlements, such as a personal injury settlement
  • Request the suspension or denial of professional, occupational, driver's, and recreational (hunting and fishing) licenses when a child support lien equals or exceeds three months' worth of support
  • Seize bank accounts including checking, savings, IRAs, and mutual funds when a child support lien equals or exceeds $1,000 or three months' worth of support, whichever is greater
  • Seize real property (land) and titled personal property (cars) when a Child Support Lien equals or exceeds six months' worth of support

Wisconsin's Child Support Lien Docket

More Information on Enforcing a child Support Order


Updated July 17, 2012

The Department of Children and Families, protecting children, strengthening families, building communities.