Child Support Enforcement Agencies(CESA) were created for the purpose of providing services to children of absent parents. In addition to collecting and disbursing child support payments, CESA agencies can provide assistance in locating parents, establishing paternity, creating support orders, and enforcing court orders of both child and spousal support. Recent Federal law now requires CESA to determine who is responsible for the health care of the children covered by a support order.
CESA agencies are vested with authority to collect support payments through various means. All child support orders are to be secured by a wage attachment if the payer is employed. Payments of spousal support may be made directly to the payee if there is no associated child support order. Unemployed or self employed persons may be required to post a bond to secure future payments. Payments may be taken directly from bank accounts or income sources such as social security or retirement accounts. Unemployed persons may be required to periodically report efforts to obtain employment.
When a default in payments occurs, CESA agencies can attempt collection through various means including contempt of court proceedings and attachment of assets through tradition collection procedures. Credit reporting agencies can be notified thereby affecting credit ratings. Federal and state income tax refunds can be intercepted. Professional and driver licenses can be suspended.
Parties may agree to limit what methods CESA may employ to collect past due support payments. In a recent Cuyahoga County, Ohio case known as Schmahl v Powers, the parties agreed on the amount
past due and how it was to be repaid.. The divorce court approved the parties agreement which directed CESA not to take certain action to collect the past due amount so long as it was being paid in accordance with the parties' agreement.
Despite the divorce court's order, CESA began enforcement proceedings in a manner contrary to the order. Husband sought to find CESA in contempt of court. When the contempt motion was denied by a lower court, the majority of the reviewing court held that the parties could, in fact, limit CESA's authority to initiate and carry out collection activities. CESA violated a valid order.
While CESA agencies provide valuable services and have the authority to collect past due payments by diverse means, parties may still control the process of collection to some extent.