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Video Transcribed: What do I do if my ex doesn’t pay their child support obligation in Oklahoma? I’m Tulsa Family Law Attorney James Wirth, and the question is, what happens if your ex stops paying child support or isn’t paying their child support? What do you do about that?
Well, first off, the court does not automatically enforce its order. Somebody has to start that process to do that. If DHS is an interested party in your case and child support is not being paid, they may file to enforce child support, but they can take time to do that.
So ultimately, it may be up to you to enforce the court’s order. Well, how do you do that? There are a few different things because child support is a judgment just like anything else, you can enforce it like any other judgment, but there are also additional options available.
So you can file because it’s court-ordered, not doing it. If that failure to pay is willful, you could file a contempt citation. Ultimately, that is a criminal offense where if they are found guilty, they could be sentenced to up to six months in jail. However, generally speaking, they would only be sentenced until they get into compliance.
So if they pay a lump sum to get caught up on child support, they would generally be released, but you can file that application for a contempt citation. You can give that to the judge, set it for an arraignment, and then set it for a hearing.
If the court finds that they were willfully violating the court’s order by not paying child support, they could be sentenced to up to six months in jail and a $500 fine. Typically, particularly in Tulsa, where there’s a specialized docket for child support enforcement, they would not normally automatically give jail time.
They would normally give them a suspended sentence or a stayed sentence of six months and then have reviews to determine their compliance. So they come back to court every month, every two months, every three months.
And if they can demonstrate that they’re still in compliance with their current child support and perhaps in payment on an arrearage, then that six-month sentence is not executed. That’s normally how it goes in practice because if the person that owes child support is in jail, it’s less likely they will be able to earn money to pay that.
So generally want to keep them out but enforce the court’s order. But other ways to enforce it. Very common to garnish… What they call a child support intercept, which essentially garnishes wages. If the person is working and getting payroll, you can get a child support intercept signed by the court, send it to their employer, and then that money will come out automatically.
If DHS is an interested party, it can be paid through DHS and then paid to you. If not, you can have it paid directly to you or through your attorney. Because it’s a judgment like anything else, you can also enforce it through not just garnishing wages as we talked about but also by levying bank accounts or putting a lien on assets that are titled, such as real estate.
If it’s not an exempt asset, if they’ve got real estate that they’re not living on that property so that they have a homestead exemption, you can force the sale of that property to pay off the back child support judgment.
Also, you could try to file for the court to cancel or suspend licenses that they have through the state of Oklahoma. Typically we see driver’s licenses, but if they have a professional license as well, that is something the court has the authority to suspend if they’re not paying their child support obligation.
So there are many different options, but some may be more specific to your circumstances. So, talk to a Tulsa Child Support Collection Attorney and get legal advice. If you want to talk to somebody at my office to get legal advice, you can go online and schedule it. Go to makelaweasy.com.