Paying child support is a legal obligation. If an individual fails to make child support payments, then there are several collection methods that the Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED) of the New Mexico Human Services Department can use to enforce child support orders and collect past due child support. These include, but are not limited to: wage withholding; liens on property; seizing bank accounts and other assets; intercepting tax refund; findings of contempt, which could include fines or jail time; revocation of driver's and professional licenses; and, denial of passports.
The most common collection method used by CSED is wage withholding, which is similar to a garnishment. A wage withholding order instructs the employer of the non-paying parent to take the child support payments directly out of the non-paying parent's paycheck and send those funds to CSED. These days, most New Mexico child support orders include an immediate income withholding provision unless there is good cause for another payment method, or both parents agree otherwise. For parents with a regular paycheck, wage withholding is treated like any other type of payroll deduction similar to taxes and social security. Though wage withholding can be used as an enforcement tool, wage withholding can benefit both the paying parent and the receiving parent because it provides a tracking system for payments and ensures that payments are made promptly.
However, many parents who are ordered to pay child support have unsteady jobs or are self-employed and wage withholding may not be practical. In these situations CSED has several other methods that it can use to collect and enforce child support orders in case of non-payment.
CSED may seize the bank account of a non-paying parent in order to enforce a child support order. New Mexico, like other states, has agreements with banks and other financial institutions to conduct quarterly data matches through the Financial Institution Data Match (FIDM) program. The purpose of FIDM is to identify the financial accounts of parents who are delinquent on their child support. Once the accounts have been located, CSED may issue levies and liens against the accounts to satisfy the non-paying parent's child support obligation.
CSED may also put a lien on property belonging to the non-paying parent. Even though this does not result in immediate payment of the past due support, it prevents the non-paying parent from transferring, selling, or borrowing against the property until the lien is removed. Additionally, CSED has authority to seize any state and federal tax refund owed to the non-paying parent in order to satisfy for past due child support.
In addition, CSED may suspend a non-paying parent's driver's license as well as any professional, recreational, and occupational licenses that they may have. If a non-paying parent owes more than $2,500, CSED can also report the parent to the U.S. Department of State, which can prevent the non-paying parent from getting a passport issued or renewed.
Finally, non-payment of child support can lead to findings of contempt against the non-paying parent. A parent found in contempt of court for failure to pay a child support order may face jail time, fines or both.
It may take a few months of failure to pay child support for CSED to start to take action against a delinquent parent. However, once CSED gets involved, it is very difficult to avoid paying child support. Similarly, if CSED makes a mistake in their record-keeping it is imperative that a paying parent correct that mistake as soon as possible to avoid being subjected to the collection methods outlined above.
If you are involved in a child support case, whether you are ordered to pay child support or to receive child support, it is important to discuss all of your rights and obligations with an attorney experienced New Mexico child support.