Can I Press Charges in Illinois on My Kids' Father for the Back Child Support He Owes?

by John Cromwell

If an Illinois court issues a child support order, as part of a paternity suit or divorce decree, the owing parent has a legal obligation to pay it. If the father of your kids does not pay the child support he owes, you can press charges on him. You can either challenge him yourself or get the Illinois Attorney General’s office to litigate on your behalf.

Petition for Rule to Show Cause

This first step is to prepare a Petition for Rule to Show Cause. Generally, the clerk of the court where you originally obtained the child support order will have blank petition forms related to child support you can use. You must provide a copy of the child support order or judgment of dissolution of marriage with your petition. You will need to cite the original order in the petition, as well as provide the case number. In the petition, you must also disclose the period of time the father has not paid his child support. When the form is completed, you must sign the form as well as an oath confirming everything you stated in the petition is true.

Filing the Petition

Once you have completed the petition, you will need to make three copies of it, the attached order and three notice of motion forms. Blank notice of motion forms can be obtained from the clerk of court. You need to bring all three packets to the clerk, who will then assign you a hearing date and keep one of the packets. You must provide notice and a copy of your motion to the father. Then both of you will need to attend the hearing, where the father must explain why he has not paid child support. If he does not provide a good reason, he can be found in contempt of court, which means he could be fined or even thrown in jail. The court can also charge interest based on how much is owed and how long the father has not paid.

Illinois HFS/DCSE

If you do not want to prosecute the case yourself, you can contact the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services' Division of Child Support Enforcement. DCSE has the authority to pursue child support cases at the state and federal level, but cannot help you with custody, visitation or any matters other than child support. The DCSE can take a variety of actions, including intercepting the father's state and federal tax refunds, placing liens on his property, contracting private collection agencies to obtain the funds from him and recording his lack of payment on his credit report. Please note the DCSE does not actually prosecute any cases in court; the Illinois attorney general does that on the agency’s behalf.

Child Support Recovery Act

The Child Support Recovery Act is a federal law that makes it easier to recover delinquent child support from parents who live in different states from their children. Under the CSRA, it is against the law to have an unpaid obligation of more than $5,000 or to have not paid for more than a year. Furthermore, it is a felony for a parent to have an unpaid obligation of more than $10,000 or to have not paid for more than two years. The CSRA requires the parent to pay the entire outstanding amount in full as of the sentencing date. The DCSE can investigate such cases and the Illinois attorney general can prosecute those charges on the agency’s behalf.