How to Get the Child Support You Are Owed

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In Virginia, both parents are expected to support their children when they divorce or split up if they’re unmarried. The noncustodial parent is required to pay child support to the custodial parent.

However, some people do not take their financial responsibilities to their children seriously enough and get behind in their child support payments. If you are in this situation, you have options to collect the child support you are owed. 


How Child Support Is Determined in Virginia


The parents of a child can enter into a legal agreement on how much child support should be paid. If they cannot agree, the judge would decide this. In Virginia, child support guidelines are used to calculate the amount of child support that the noncustodial parent should pay. Some factors considered in setting the payment include:


  • The income of both parents, which includes wages, pensions, self-employment income, and other sources of income
  • Cost of child care while the parents work
  • Food, shelter, and clothing costs for the child
  • Educational expenses
  • Living arrangements of both parents and what the visitation schedule is


Once an agreement is reached on child support or the judge makes a ruling on this, a child support order would be entered stating the amount of child support to be paid.


Ways to Enforce a Child Support Order


There are a number of ways you can enforce a child support order and get paid any past child support you are owed. You can take actions through the court where the order was entered or through the Department of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE).

While you might want to deprive your ex-spouse visitation time as a means to obtain your child support, this is usually not an option. Here are effective ways to force an ex-spouse to pay what they owe:


Wage Garnishment


If the noncustodial parent is at least one month behind in his child support payments, the court can enter a wage withholding order requiring his employer to withhold the payments from his wages. The order can require current child support payments and a portion of the arrearage to be garnished from his wages. To get this type of order, you would need to file a notice of arrears with the court.


License Suspension


Another option you have is to file a petition asking the judge to suspend the non-paying parent’s driver’s, occupational, or recreational license. You would be entitled to this relief if one of these apply to your situation:


  • Your ex-spouse or partner failed to pay child support for more than 90 days.
  • You are owed delinquent payments of more than $5,000.


Garnishment of State and Federal Income Tax Refunds


Under federal and Virginia law, a non-paying parent’s state and federal income refund can be intercepted by the DCSE to pay the child support payments they owe. If you are using this option and your ex-spouse files a joint return with a new spouse, the payment to you would be delayed for six months, so the new spouse can claim the portion of the refund they are owed.




The DCSE has the power to request a lien on property of the non-paying parent. They could use the lien to garnish money from the parent’s bank account or proceeds from the settlement of a lawsuit to pay child support obligations.


Qualified Domestic Relations Order


A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is a court order that requires the employer of one spouse to designate a portion of their retirement account to be paid to the other spouse as part of the divorce. Under Virginia law, certain pensions, profit-sharing, deferred compensation, and other retirement benefits can be garnished for delinquent child support obligations through the use of a QDRO.

Is your ex-spouse or partner behind in their child support payments? You need the help of a skilled divorce attorney in Midlothian to use the best options to get the child support you are owed. Call my office at 804-396-3329, or start a live chat to schedule an appointment to learn how I can help you.


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