Child Support

Child Support and Dead-Beats

Non-Custodial Parents who avoid their child support obligations are often termed dead-beat parents. The US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 68% of child support cases had arrearages owed in 2003 (a figure up from 53% in 1999). Some non-custodial parents claim their payments are too high. According to one study 38% of Illinois non-custodial parents not paying child-support said they lacked the money to pay. Twenty-three percent used non-payment to protest a lack of visitation rights. Fourteen percent complained of no accountability over the spending of their child support money, while 13% said they didn’t want their child(ren) and 12% denied parentage. Additionally, some non-custodial parents who have been subject to acrimonious divorces often see these payments as unfair and excessive. Some custodial parents who have been victimized in abusive relationships view the avoidance of child support payments as another means of their spouses perpetuating the abuse.


In the United States, many states suspend an individual’s licenses (i.e. driver’s license, business license, contractor license) if that individual has significant arrearage in support payments or does not consistently pay support. This authority does not extend to professionals who receive licensure through non-governmental agencies.

In 2000, the state of Tennessee revoked the driver’s licenses of 1,372 people who collectively owed more than $13 million in child support. In Texas non-custodial parents behind more than three months in child-support payments can have court-ordered payments deducted from their wages, can have federal income tax refund checks, lottery winnings, or other money that may be due from state or federal sources intercepted by child support enforcement agencies, can have licenses (including hunting and fishing licenses) suspended, and a judge may sentence a nonpaying parent to jail and enter a judgment for past due child support.

Some have taken the view that such penalties are unconstitutional, even alleging that “The People employed in the family courts and family court services are criminals” However, on September 4, 1998, the Supreme Court of Alaska upheld a law allowing state agencies to revoke driver’s licenses of parents seriously delinquent in child support obligations. And in the case of United States of America v. Sage, U.S. Court of Appeals (2nd Cir., 1996), the court upheld the constitutionality of a law allowing federal fines and up to two years imprisonment for a person willfully failing to pay more than $5,000 in child support over a year or more when said child resides in a different state from that of the non-custodial parent.

The U.S. law commonly known as the Bradley Amendment was passed in 1986 to automatically trigger a non expiring lien whenever child support becomes past-due.

  • The law overrides any state’s Statute of Limitations.
  • The law disallows any judicial discretion, even from bankruptcy judges.
  • The law requires that the payment amounts be maintained without regard for the physical capability of the person owing child support (the obligor) to make the notification or regard for their awareness of the need to make the notification.

But, like any other past-due debt, the obligee, typically a mother, may forgive what is owed to her.

When Past-Due Child Support is owed to a state as a result of welfare paid out, the state is free to forgive some or all of it under what’s known as an offer in compromise.