How are Support Orders Enforced? - Zukerman Law

How are Support Orders Enforced?

Financial security is vital for both children and spouses, especially after a separation or divorce. Court-ordered support plays a crucial role in ensuring this stability. These support orders, typically for child support and/or spousal support, establish a legal obligation for one party to provide financial assistance to the other.

Unfortunately, enforcing these orders can sometimes be difficult. Missed payments can create financial strain and hardship for the receiving party. If you’re facing this challenge, you’re not alone. This article will explore the various methods available to enforce support orders and how Zukerman Law Group can be a strong advocate on your side.

Methods of Enforcing Support Orders

Methods of Enforcing Support Orders

A court’s primary concern is making sure the party supposed to pay support payments complies with the court-mandated requirements when it finds that the party is entitled to receive alimony or child support from their spouse.

Income garnishment, license suspension from state licensing authorities, and imposing punitive sanctions for contempt of court are some consequences that can occur from neglecting to pay child support when responsible for it. A party can enforce a support order by seeking such remedies in court.

1- Petition with the Court

There are various methods for enforcing the court’s child support order to collect the money you are entitled to if the co-parent of your child refuses to pay the required amount. You must first file a petition with the court to have your co-parent held in contempt and the agreement enforced.

The co-parent will be held in contempt and forced to pay the owed amount if the court finds that the co-parent is in arrears and the debt is not paid prior to the hearing. The court may order the co-parent’s arrest if they do not show up for the hearing.

2- Income Withholding

If a spouse fails to pay alimony or child support, the dependent party can request the court to withhold their income. This powerful method ensures automatic deductions from the paying party’s paycheck, directing funds directly to the recipient.

3- License Suspensions

Suspending or revoking a person’s professional, recreational, or occupational license is another way to make them pay child support under the court’s orders.

Licenses that could be suspended due to the failure to make support payments include:

  • Driver’s licenses
  • Business licenses
  • Medical licenses
  • Licenses to practice law
  • Hunting or fishing licenses

The party requesting enforcement must provide proof of one of the following before the court will suspend the party’s licenses for failure to pay child support.

  • Missed payments equaling or exceeding six months of child support
  • Failure to attend a paternity or child support enforcement proceeding
  • Issuance of an arrest bond for failure to pay child support
  • Failure to provide health care within six months orders a party to do so

4- Income Tax Refund Intercept

In addition, your federal income tax refunds may be intercepted (taken) to pay for past-due child support. The Domestic Relations Section will automatically apply for an IRS tax refund intercept in all cases that meet the following eligibility requirements:

Only child support can be collected. Your support order must be for child support only. However, spousal support may be included if the same court order includes support for both spouse and children.

There must be a minimum amount of past-due child support. To qualify for the IRS intercept program, there must be at least $500 in past-due child support payments (or $150 if arrears are owed to welfare) and one month of arrears (or three months of arrears if arrears are owed to welfare).

Retroactive arrears (those that occur between the time the case is started and the time the court order is entered) cannot be collected by IRS tax refund intercept.

The child must be under 18 at the end of the year the tax refund applies to.

They need the other parent’s Social Security number to track down the refund.

Note: Zukerman Law Group understands the challenges of enforcing support orders. Our experienced family law attorneys will work tirelessly to ensure you receive the financial resources you and your family deserve. Contact Zukerman Law Group to discuss your support enforcement options.

5- Liens and Levies

When faced with repeated missed payments, the court can utilize two powerful tools to recover owed support: liens and levies. Let’s see how each one works:

  • Liens: Imagine a lien as a legal claim attached to a piece of property owned by the person who owes support (the obligor). This “claim” essentially freezes the asset, preventing the obligor from selling or transferring it without first settling the outstanding support. 
  • There are different types of liens, and the specific type used will depend on the nature of the asset. For example, a house lien would prevent the obligor from selling their house until the support is paid. 
  • Levies: While liens restrict the obligor’s ability to sell assets, levies take a more direct approach. A levy allows the court to seize funds directly from the obligor’s bank accounts. This can be a very effective method for recouping owed support, especially if the obligor has readily available cash. 


While enforcing a support order can feel overwhelming, there are effective strategies to secure the financial resources you and your family are owed. Understanding the enforcement process empowers you to take action. If you’re facing non-payment of a support order, Zukerman Law Group’s experienced family law attorneys can guide you through your options and fight for a fair resolution. Contact us today for a consultation to discuss your specific situation.


  • 1- What happens if you don’t pay child support?1

    Not paying child support can lead to serious consequences like wage garnishment, tax refund seizure, suspended licenses, and even jail time. The court prioritizes getting financial support to the child, so they have various ways to enforce payment.

  • 2- How do I get my child support arrears dismissed in Canada?1

    Getting child support arrears dismissed in Canada is difficult. Courts prioritize ensuring child support reaches the child, so forgiveness is rare. However, you might be able to reduce the amount owed by proving a significant, long-term income decrease beyond your control, or financial hardship with demonstrably no ability to ever pay. To argue hardship successfully, the parent must show sufficient, reliable documentation that they cannot, and will not ever, be able to pay their arrears.

  • 3- Is child support mandatory in BC?1

    In most cases, when parents divorce (or have a kid together but are not romantically involved), one of them must provide financial support for the children. We refer to this cash as child support. Every child in British Columbia is entitled to child support.
    4- How long do you have to legally pay child support in Canada?
    If the child is a dependent, child support must be paid. In general, dependent refers to a child up until the age of 18, though occasionally longer. If they marry or decide to leave home at the age of 16, the child is no longer considered dependent.

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Stuart Zukerman

Stuart Zukerman, a graduate of the University of British Columbia, has over 32 years of experience in litigation with a focus on Family Law, Personal Injury, Wrongful Dismissal claims, and Collaborative Divorce & Mediation. He has extensive trial experience in divorce, child custody, spousal support, asset division, and ICBC injury claims. As an accredited Family Law Mediator, he helps resolve disputes without court intervention. Stuart has also authored papers on family law and lectured at CLE courses.