Enforcing Child Support Orders

Local child support agencies monitor cases to ensure court orders are being followed. Federal guidelines require a local child support agency to take action in cases when a payer is more than one month behind in making payments. A child support agency may take increasing enforcement action, usually starting with letters to the paying parent in an attempt to collect past-due support before any other enforcement actions begin.

Enforcement Actions Taken by Child Support Agencies

Child support agencies have many tools to help them enforce child support orders. Click on items below to learn more about each enforcement tool used to collect child support.

Actions taken automatically by law when a court order is issued:

Initial actions used to collect money when a parent owes past-due support:

Actions taken automatically by law when the amount of past-due support reaches a certain level:

Actions taken on a case by case basis, decided by the child support agency:

Parents paying support: To avoid increasing past-due support if your income goes down, please contact your local child support agency.

Questions Parents ask about Enforcing an Order

Parent Who Pays Support

What if I think I do NOT owe past-due child support?

You should compare your payment history with your own records to determine if the past-due support amount is accurate.

You can get a copy of your payment history from Child Support Online Services (registration required.) You may also get a copy of your payment records by calling the KIDS Information Line, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (central time).

If you think there is an error, contact your child support agency to discuss the possible reasons for the difference. You must provide proof that the amount owed is in error. The child support agency will review your case to determine if there is an error. If you do not agree with the child support agency's decision, you may request a court review.

What if I lose my job?

Your child support order continues after a job loss because only a court can change the amount of your child support order. If your job loss will result in a substantial change to your income you may seek a change in the amount of the child support you are ordered to pay. Contact your child support agency or your attorney to find out how to ask the court to change your order as this is not automatic. For more information, please see Job Loss and Child Support.

What if my pay and/or hours were cut?

If a substantial change in circumstances reduces your ability to pay the child support amount ordered, see how you can have your order reviewed for a change.

What if I get called to active duty?

If child support is normally withheld from your civilian paycheck, then it will need to be withheld from your military pay. Please contact the child support agency where your order was established to update your pay status.

How can I avoid further enforcement actions?

  • If you lose your job or get called to active duty, please call your child support agency. They may be able to help you avoid going into debt.
  • Pay past-due support in full. One way to do this is by taking out a loan. Once past-due support is paid, stay current.
  • If you change jobs, make sure your support is paid on time. If there is a delay in your new employer deducting your child support from your paycheck, send in your payment with a payment coupon.
  • Arrange a payment plan for past-due support with your child support agency.

The other parent won't let me spend time with my children. Can you help?

No. Only the court has the authority and responsibility to enforce legal custody, visitation, and placement orders. Child support agencies have no authority or responsibility for these issues.

Parent Who Receives Support

Why am I not getting my support?

Although the Wisconsin Child Support program is a national leader in support collections, not all families receive child support in any given month. The most common difficulty is that the other parent's address and/or employer are not known. Please note: if you have not applied for services from the child support agency or have not been referred by a benefit program to the agency, the child support agency will not monitor or take any enforcement actions on your case.

Can I ask for enforcement?

You may contact your child support agency and ask for enforcement of your child support order if the other parent does not make a payment for more than a month.

Why does the agency keep sending letters? I want the other parent in jail.

Child support agencies have many tools to help them enforce child support orders. For the most efficient and effective use of staff time, child support agencies use their experience to choose which actions they take and when. For instance, they might write warning letters before they take more drastic action. Some enforcement actions require due process or a court action. Jail is not always the best way to get money for your children.

Can child support agencies arrest the other parent?

No. Child support agencies cannot arrest anyone. The child support agency can send a warrant to court for a signature. If the court signs and files a warrant, the warrant is sent to the sheriff's office. The warrant gives the sheriff's office authority to arrest a person.

The last time we went to court I did not agree with what the court decided. What can I do?

When a court rules on a case, the child support agency cannot change the ruling. As with any court decision, you may appeal the decision to a higher court or hire an attorney to appeal. You may also ask your caseworker if there are other options you or the agency could use.

Weeks ago my caseworker said that the agency would take my case to court because the other parent is not paying. Why haven't they gone to court yet?

It takes time to set a court date. The court might not be able to schedule your case immediately.

I do not want certain actions taken against the other parent when payments are not made. What can I do?

Federal regulations require child support agencies to provide all services that are proper for cases. If you do not receive cash benefits, you have the option of asking your child support agency to close your child support services. Please send a written request to stop services to your child support agency. By state law, your child support payments will still be paid through the Wisconsin Support Collections Trust Fund. If you later change your mind and want to receive full child support services, you may reapply.