I am not receiving my child support. What should I do?
Being a single parent is a daunting task. Nothing is more frustrating, and nothing makes your life more difficult, than obtaining a fair child support order but then not receiving payment. What should you do?
When you are not receiving support, you have several options. Firstly, you should find out why you are not receiving support. Secondly, you should not use "self-help" remedies, like denying the other parent his or her periods of placement. And, finally, a contempt motion may be appropriate.
Parents receiving child support payments must understand that, especially in Milwaukee County, there may be a delay of up to several weeks between the time the payment is received by WISTAF (the child support trust) and the time the support payment is disbursed to you. Therefore, do not be immediately concerned if the other parent was ordered to pay support on the first of each month, but you do not receive the payment immediately. If it becomes apparent, though, that the support payments are not being made, the first course of action is to contact the other parent (either directly or through your attorney) to investigate whether there is a reason for non-payment. In some cases, a payer loses his or her job. If this is the case, it is a legitimate reason for failing to pay support. Nonetheless, if this happens, it would be appropriate to obtain a "seek work" order from the court. Such an order compels the payer to make a certain number of work applications per week, and to then report these applications to the court.
If there does not appear to be a legitimate reason for failing to pay child support, then you should contact your attorney to discuss ways of enforcing the support order. One thing you must not do is to engage in the various forms of "self-help." Some custodial parents believe that if they are not receiving child support payments they are justified in denying periods of placement (visitation) to the other parent. This is not the case. There is no linkage between the child support order and the placement order. If you decide to stop following the visitation order, you are in contempt of course just the same as the parent who is not paying support.
Finally, a child support order is a court order. As such, the court can enforce the support order by use of its contempt powers. That is, a parent who is ordered to pay child support, but who is refusing to pay (or refusing to seek work), may be punished by the court. Contempt punishments include the imposition of actual attorneys fees, and even jail. Additionally, intentionally refusing to pay child support where one has the ability to do so is a crime under Wisconsin law.