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Enforcing an order for child support in a Virginia divorce

Most people who become embroiled in divorce proceedings in Virginia hope that the emotional turmoil will end when the court enters its final judgment and decree. Unhappily for some divorcing couples, the entry of the judgment can mark the beginning of a new period of emotional stress centering on the enforcement of the court’s order for child support.

Many persons who are ordered to pay child support do so exactly as the court orders; each payment is made on time and in the specified amount. Other ex-spouses treat the support order as nothing more than a nuisance. This attitude can cause significant anguish for the ex-spouse who is expecting the payments every month. What can be done?

Virginia operates the Department of Child Support Enforcement, a state agency that is charged with helping parents of minor children collect child support from delinquent parents. The DCSE has several potent administration tools at its command, including garnishment, placing a lien on real estate and arrest. Occasionally, resort to a court is necessary. An ex-spouse who fails to make court-ordered support payments faces a significant fine and potential incarceration if that parent ignores the court’s order in an enforcement proceeding.

A further possibility is that one or both spouses have moved to another state. In such cases, the parent who is entitled to receive child support can invoke the Uniform Federal Family Support Act, a federal statute endorsed by all 50 states. Under this law, a parent can file a petition seeking payment of delinquent support. If the administrative prerequisites have been satisfied, a judge will sign the order and arrange for service on the delinquent spouse.

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