Child Support Payments – How and Where to Make Them
On the surface, payments may seem simple – but when you have to actually start making them, you may find it's more complicated than you initially thought. How do you go about making payments – where and to whom? You may be surprised to learn that payments aren't made directly to the custodial parent – they have to be processed through the proper channels. It's important to get an understanding for the proper procedure involved, so you can stay up to date on payments and avoid getting into trouble and owing money for unpaid support.
How Do You Make Payments?
As mentioned, payments are not made directly to your ex but to an agency, which in most states of the US is called the Department of Human Services (DHS). The DHS is responsible for coordinating child support payments and provides other child support related services, such as tracking down non-custodial parents whose whereabouts are unknown.
As part of your child support order, you'll be required to make monthly payments to your DHS on a particular date. It's important to pay attention to this date and make payments on time whenever possible in order to avoid raising red flags with the DHS.
Where to Make Payments
Payments can be made at the local branch of your state DHS. However, you don't have to show up in person to make payments – it's far easier to set up an automatic payment which goes through every month to the correct account. This may not be an option if your income is irregular, but ideally you should try to budget so that you can meet your child support payments on time every month.
Making Payments Electronically
In most cases you can now make your payments online. Check out the DHS website for your state and see if you can find information on how to make online child support payments – if you can't see how to do this on their website, give them a call and enquire. Making payments electronically is a convenient option and makes if easier to make payments on short notice if you have an irregular income.
Payment Processing and Distribution
You may be curious about the payment processing system and how payments are distributed. After you make a payment to the DHS, they will record it so there is evidence in your system of you having made that payment. Likewise, if you miss a payment this will be recorded – and you will still be liable to pay it. Once the payment has been processed, it will then be distributed on to the custodial parent.
Disputes over payments can arise in a variety of circumstances. The payment process via the DHS is there to safeguard both parents – it protects custodial parents by keeping a record of what's owed to them, and it protects non-custodial parents by keeping an accurate record of what they've paid. This generally helps avoid the development of 'my word against yours' situations, where one parent is claiming payment has been made while the other denies receiving money.
Payment disputes generally crop up when either the non-custodial parent feels they're being forced to pay too much, or the custodial parent feels they aren't getting enough. In both these scenarios, the correct procedure is to go back through the legal system and apply to have the payment amount adjusted.
This will usually only happen if there has been a big change in the circumstances of one or both parents. Such changes could include something like the loss of a job, or even a change in the custody of one or more children. If you have taken custody of a child after having previously been a non-custodial parent, it's important to make sure your status has been updated with the DHS to avoid accumulating child support arrears which you may end up being liable for later on.
Below I have provided links for each state where you are able to find information on child support payments.