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 Child Support Enforcement Attorney can help you to establish paternity for your child.

Establishing the obligation is the next step. The fair amount of child support that the non-custodial parent should pay is determined according to state guidelines. Your Child Support Enforcement Attorney will be able to tell you how support award amounts are set in your state and he can also request medical support for your child.

The last step is enforcement of the child support order. The Child Support Attorney can help with collecting the money due no matter where the non-custodial parent lives.

At any of these steps, your Child Support Enforcement Attorney 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 Attorney 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, known as Wage Garnishment. Most child support orders require the employer to withhold the money that is ordered for child support and send it to the Child Support Enforcement office. Your Attorney 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.

For more information, see our Glossary of Child Support Terms.

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