When parents separate or divorce, the custodial parent is typically entitled to child support from the parent who does not have primary custody. Idaho's child support guidelines set forth the amount the non-custodial parent must pay. The paying parent generally must make child support payments until a child turns 18. If payments are not made, Idaho's Department of Health and Welfare is authorized to enforce a court order to obtain payments.
Child Support Guidelines
A court will issue a child support order setting payments in accordance with Idaho's child support guidelines. Child support is determined based on the owing parent's income as well as the number of children that require support. The court uses a sliding scale of percentages. For example, if a parent owes child support for two children and earns an annual income of $50,000, he must pay 26 percent of his first $10,000 of earned income toward child support, 25 percent of his next $10,000, 23 percent of his next $10,000, 22 percent of his next $10,000 and 20 percent of his last $10,000, making his total monthly child support amount $967.
If either parent experiences a significant change in circumstances, they can petition the court for a modification of child support. If the non-paying parent loses financial resources or the paying parent is in a healthier financial position than when the original court order was issued, the non-paying parent can petition the court to increase the amount of child support. However, if the paying parent experiences a decrease in income that would alter the child support by at least 15 percent, he can request a modification as well.
When a parent fails to pay child support in accordance with a court order, the non-paying parent can seek enforcement through the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare's Child Support Services (CSS) division has several methods in place to collect the owed support. If a parent falls one month behind in payments, CSS will contact that parent's employer and arrange for income withholding. The child support amount is withheld from the parent's income, transferred to CSS and then paid to the parent owed support. If the paying parent owes more than a month in back support, CSS is authorized to intercept any lottery winnings of more than $500, as well as any state or federal tax refunds. CSS is also permitted to file a lien on any real estate the owing parent owns in Idaho when the child support owed is more than $2000. If the owing parent tries to sell that property, the child support owed is deducted from the proceeds and paid to the custodial parent. CSS is also permitted to garnish bank accounts, investments and other personal assets when the owing parent is more than three months behind in making child support payments. Lastly, CSS can order the suspension of an owing parent's passport or any licenses issued in the state, including driver's, business, boating, hunting or firearms licenses, until payments are made. Finally, when enforcement actions fail to ensure compliance with the court-ordered child support obligation, the next step may be to refer the case to a CSS attorney for contempt action. A contempt action requires the owing parent to appear in court to explain to a judge why he has failed to comply with the order. The judge may issue fines and even jail time along with an order to pay past due child support.
When a parent who owes child support continuously and intentionally fails to make payments and moves out of state in an attempt to avoid his obligation, that parent can be prosecuted in a federal criminal court. The parent who is owed support can ask CSS to submit a referral to the U.S. Attorney's office. Every year, only a small number of cases are selected for prosecution, so the past due child support amount must be greater than $20,000 and the owing parent must not have made any payments for more than two years. These are felony cases so if convicted, the owing parent may receive a six-month jail sentence plus a fine set by the court, in addition to still having to pay all past due child support. If a parent is convicted for any subsequent violations, the prison term increases to two years.