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Steps to Collecting Child Support

1. Establish Paternity- The first step if a child was born out of wedlock, is to establish paternity - or make a legal determination of who fathered the child. Many men will voluntarily acknowledge paternity. Either parent can request a blood test in contested paternity cases. Your caseworker will help you to establish paternity for your child.

2. Establish Obligation - The fair amount of child support that the non-custodial parent should pay is determined according to state guidelines. Your CSE office will be able to tell you how support award amounts are set in your state. Your CSE office can also request medical support for your child.

3. Enforcement - The last step is enforcement of the child support order. The Child Support Enforcement (CSE) office in your state can help with collecting the money due no matter where the non-custodial parent lives.

At any of these steps, the CSE office may need to know where the non-custodial parent is living or where he/she is working. When a parent has disappeared, it is usually possible for the CSE office to find him/her with the help of state agencies, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles, or the Federal Parent Locator Service. Your caseworker can tell you what information is needed to find an absent parent or his/her employer.

The most successful way to collect child support is by direct withholding from the obligated parent's paycheck. Most child support orders require the employer to withhold the money that is ordered for child support and send it to the CSE office. Your Child Support Enforcement office can tell you about this procedure.

Federal and State Income Tax refunds may be withheld to collect unpaid child support. States also have laws which allow them to use: liens on real and personal property; orders to withhold and deliver property; or seizure and sale of property with the proceeds applied to the support debt. Many states routinely report child support debts to credit bureaus and smart parents are bringing their payments current so that their credit won't be affected.

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