The family court may order child support as part of a separation, divorce, or paternity case. Whenever two legal and biological parents are living separately, child support is ordered to ensure that both parents are providing the financial support that they are obligated to pay. If the paying parent is not making their required payments, steps can be taken to ensure that these payments are made. A Chicago child support attorney can help parents seek enforcement for child support.

When children primarily live with one parent, that parent shoulders most or all of the costs of raising them. Child support payments make sure the other parent is equally responsible for these costs. The court may have assigned support payments, or parents may have worked together on a parenting plan that was then entered into the court. In both cases, it is an enforceable court order.

Failing to pay child support can place the primary custodial parent in significant financial hardship. Even if you can manage these daily expenses, you shouldn’t have to without the financial support that you were relying on. You may be sympathetic to your co-parent, but if the support is too much for them to pay, the other parent needs to take action. It’s important that you recover financial support for the benefit of your children.

Enforcing Child Support Payments

In Illinois, the state’s Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) within the Department of Healthcare and Family Services is responsible for managing most child support payments. If a parent informs the DCSS that they are not receiving payments, the DCSS can take collection actions. In some cases, the DCSS will take these actions automatically but in others, it may do so when nonpayment reaches a certain level.

If you are not getting child support payments from your co-parent, you want to talk with an attorney first to determine the right route. In some cases, it’s beneficial to first talk with your co-parent about the situation. This may provide a solution to the situation without taking any administrative or court action. If you and your co-parent get along, you may be able to talk to them about the cause of non-payment and what can be done to get the support you need.

However, this isn’t an option for all co-parenting relationships. A parent may also continue to not make payments, even after talking with them. In these cases, you may want to bring the case to the DCSS or the court that ordered the support payments. Your attorney can help determine the right option for your unique situation.

Potential Collection Actions and Penalties for Unpaid Child Support

The enforcement of child support payments exists to protect a child’s interests. When a parent does not pay their support, a child’s well-being and standard of living can suffer, sometimes significantly. The state takes noncompliance with support orders very seriously because of this. Some of the methods that the court or the DCSS may use to collect payments or punish the non-paying parent include:

  • Wage Garnishment: This occurs when the DCSS requires a paying parent’s employer to take a percentage out of the parent’s paycheck. This money goes directly to pay off unpaid support. The DCSS or court may also garnish other forms of income, such as Social Security payments, unemployment income, and other compensation.
  • Driver’s License Suspension: The court can revoke or suspend a driver’s license if a parent has unpaid child support for more than 90 days. There is typically a warning first, giving the parent time to pay the support. The court may also revoke or suspend other licenses, like professional or recreational licenses.
  • Federal and State Income Tax Refund: The DCSS or court can intercept these refunds to recover payments.
  • Contempt of Court: A parent can face criminal charges and conviction if they go without paying for a certain period of time or when they reach a certain amount of unpaid support. In extreme cases, this could even result in felony charges.


Q: How Long Can Someone Go Without Paying Child Support in Illinois?

A: The support agency does not give a specific length of time that a parent can go without paying in Illinois. Any amount of time a parent goes without paying child support in Illinois can be considered delinquent. If these overdue payments are not paid, then the agency can take collection actions. Penalties get more serious if support is unpaid for more than six months or totals more than $5,000, as the non-paying parent could be held in contempt of court and face criminal charges.

Q: How Far Behind in Child Support Can You Be Before a Warrant Is Issued in Illinois?

A: There is not a set amount that you can be behind in child support before a warrant is issued in Illinois, as even the act of willfully failing to pay support, despite having the ability to do so, is a crime. If you do not have the financial ability, then failure to support can be charged when unpaid support reaches more than $5,000 or has been unpaid for six months. If you cannot make your payments, it is crucial to inform the court and determine your options before you start missing payments.

Q: What Can You Do When Your Ex Doesn’t Pay Child Support in Illinois?

A: If your ex doesn’t pay child support in Illinois, you can bring the issue to the court that placed the support order or the state’s Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) if the agency manages payments. These parties have the ability to take administrative, civil, or even criminal action against the non-paying parent. Depending on the amount of time that the support has gone unpaid, an ex may face fines, license suspensions, or even jail time for contempt of court.

Q: What Is a Substantial Change in Circumstances in Illinois Child Support?

A: A substantial change in circumstances in Illinois child support payments must be relevant to the financial circumstances of either parent or the child’s needs. One of the following must be true before a hearing to consider modification is held:

  1. It has been 36 months since the order was created or modified.
  2. Parental income or financial resources have changed significantly.
  3. The original support order did not take healthcare insurance costs into account.
  4. There was a written request for review by the child support agency.

Securing the Financial Support Your Children Need

When you need legal support to enforce child support orders, contact Stange Law Firm. We can help you determine your legal options and ideal course of action.