Establishment of an Order
A noncustodial parent can't get in trouble for nonpayment of support until a divorce decree is issued by the court, legally obligating him to pay child support. If parents don’t divorce but just live separately, the custodial parent can petition the court for a stand-alone support order, separate from a decree. Kentucky uses the income shares model for calculating child support: the court adds both parents' incomes together, a certain amount of the total is set aside for the children's needs, and each parent pays a portion of that amount commensurate with the percentage they contribute to the combined total income. The custodial parent pays for the children's needs directly; the noncustodial parent makes a cash payment toward the children's support.
After a Kentucky court issues a child support order, the custodial parent has the option of registering it with the state's Child Support Enforcement program for collection. If she doesn't, she typically must return to family court for enforcement if the noncustodial parent doesn't pay. If she does, the CSE initiates mandatory income withholding for all support orders it handles.
A noncustodial parent may still fall behind with his support obligation if he's not regularly employed or is self-employed, making income withholding difficult or impossible. Both Kentucky law and federal law require all employers to report new hires to the state so the CSE can set up an income withholding order as soon as a noncustodial parent begins working. If this isn't possible and a parent falls behind anyway, Kentucky uses the standard support enforcement methods: the state will intercept tax refunds, suspend driver's and other licenses, arrange for passport denial, and seize bank accounts and other assets. If a parent falls six months behind, Kentucky will "boot" his vehicle by installing a device that makes it incapable of starting. The state also publishes notice of delinquencies in local newspapers, naming parents who attain or exceed six months' worth of arrears. Repeated refusal to pay is punishable by contempt of court charges that can involve jail time, and when arrears reach $2,000 or more, a nonpaying parent can be charged with a felony crime.
Statutes of Limitation
A child support order expires in Kentucky when the last child covered by it emancipates, moving beyond the need for financial support from his parents. When this happens, custodial parents still have time to collect arrears. They can go back to court and get a judgment against the noncustodial parent for the total amount owed. After this is accomplished, the parent has 15 years from the date the last child emancipated to use the judgment to try to collect.