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The Divorce Encyclopedia

Term Definition Registry - the entity through which the court receives and disburses money, including child support payments.
Application in Divorce In most cases, the man, who is the noncustodial parent, pays his former wife alimony and child support. She has some latitude in how to collect these payments, and the divorce decree spells out that route.

In general, child support payments are made in one of the three ways: 1) direct payment, whereby the noncustodial parent pays the custodial parent directly based on a schedule the two spouses have worked out as part of their separation agreement; 2) garnishment, whereby the employer of the noncustodial spouse deducts and forwards the support payment to the custodial parent; and 3) registration of the support order with the child support enforcement agency, whereby the agency acts as a conduit between the noncustodial parent and the custodial parent.

Option one is the easiest and most simple. As long as the noncustodial parent acts in good faith, it’s simple and direct. Many child support orders start as direct payment but carry with them a provision for garnishment in the event of nonpayment. However, if the payor fails to make good his obligation, the payee has no recourse but to go to court to force him to pay -- at her expense.

All child support orders make option two possible. Wage garnishment, which is also called wage assignment or income assignment, permits automatic deductions that insure that support is timely. In this routine, the receiving spouse is normally responsible for setting the regular deduction and collection of support from a former spouse’s paycheck. After garnishment is set up, the employer is responsible for making the deductions. Option two does not work in the case of a self-employed person.

Many custodial parents go for option three and use state child support enforcement agencies. These agencies are called CSEs, child support enforcement units. Established under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act to collect information, establish parentage and collect child support, these state agencies help a custodial parent attach a wage garnishment to a former spouse’s income, accept payments from a noncustodial parent and distribute them, track a payment history, follow up on delinquent payments, insure that the child’s health insurance is in place, monitor a spouse’s employment efforts (when nonpayment is the result of job loss), and work with a spouse to make back payments.

Option three is flexible. A self-employed person may pay the agency directly. Or, if the agency is acting for the recipient, garnished wages may be conveyed to the agency, and then passed to the recipient.

Using a CSE puts the force of the jurisdiction behind child support. Millions of dollars in child support go uncollected each year.

To register with support enforcement agency, a person needs to provide a copy of the support order, basic information about the parties (both spouses’ dates of birth, social security numbers and current contact information).

See also Garnishment, Attachment.

Resources: Every state maintains a state child support enforcement agency website. The General Services Administration is also a place to begin. Its phone number is 1-888-878-3256.

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