How to handle 'deadbeat' parents in Illinois

Unpaid child support obligations aren't something that parents in Illinois should ignore. The penalties for being a "deadbeat" parent are severe.

If you're struggling to collect support payments from your child's other parent, here is some information you may find useful.

Unpaid support becomes an enforceable judgment

In Illinois, unpaid child support obligations turn into judgments against the nonpaying parent. That's important because it allows you to take action to collect past due support even when there's no current support due. Also, child support cannot be discharged in a bankruptcy -- so there's no way for the other parent to easily evade the debt.

Since it's an enforceable judgment, the court permits you to place a lien on any assets the other parent may have. This includes homes, bank accounts, pension plans and more. You can also garnish his or her wages.

The other parent can lose his or her license to drive

A driver's license is considered a privilege, not a right -- and Illinois can revoke that privilege from a nonpaying parent through the Family Financial Responsibility Act a mere 90 days after the parent falls behind on support.

Typically, a contempt order is sent from the court or the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (DHFS) to the state. The parent is then given 60 days to become compliant. This is often effective when a lien or garnishment fails to elicit a response.

The other parent's name and debt may be publicized

If the parent's unpaid support reaches $5,000 or more, the state will attempt to shame the parent into compliance. DHFS maintains a website with photos of the delinquent parents and the total amount of the debt that they owe. This information is easily accessible to anyone who cares to look, which means that it can be found by neighbors, relatives, friends, landlords and employers.

It can be incredibly frustrating to deal with a parent that doesn't feel obligated to support his or her own child -- but you aren't powerless. If you need help enforcing a child support obligation, an attorney can often guide you through the process.

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