The terms of your Dissolution Judgment which require your ex-husband to pay child support can be enforced under Illinois family law. You must file papers with the court in order to enforce your rights to the child support. Generally, the papers are filed with the same court which issued your Dissolution Judgment. You may not have the same judge, as different judges are assigned to the section of the court which oversees enforcement of your rights.
A court paper called a petition is filed in order to start the procedure. The petition will state your ex-husband’s obligations under the Dissolution Judgment and show how he has failed to live up to them. The document will be signed by you under oath. The court will give a hearing date. Notice of the hearing date and a copy of the petition must be forwarded to your ex-husband. Your petition can ask for several forms of relief. First, most common and most effective, is a request that your ex-husband be found in contempt of court for failure to make the required payments of child support. If your ex-husband had the ability to make the payments but did not, the judge can find him in contempt. The fact that he has money for other purposes, such as the Bahamas trip, is strong evidence that he had sufficient money to make the child support payments. A finding of contempt can result in jail, but most judges will withhold a jail sentence if the past-due child support is paid. The possibility of going to jail is a very strong motivation for your ex-husband to pay the past-due child support.
A second possible remedy is to ask the judge to award you a judgment for the amount of past-due child support. The judgment can then be used to garnish your ex-husband’s wages or bank account. This remedy is not as certain or as quick as asking for contempt.
Another remedy which would be available to you when the child support is more than 90 days past due is the suspension of your ex-husband’s driver’s license. This would prevent him from driving, or limit his driving, until all past-due child support was paid.
You can also collect interest on past-due child support and ask that your ex-husband pay your divorce attorney’s fees for having to go to court.
Illinois law provides a procedure which takes the payment of child support out of the hands of your ex-husband. The support can be deducted from his paycheck by his employer. The money is then forwarded to a state agency which, in turn, sends it to you. This can be ordered by the court, and is a good idea if your ex-husband is not a reliable payor of child support.
Jay A. Frank is a senior divorce practitioner with Aronberg Goldgehn Davis & Garmisa in Chicago. He has been selected as one of the top family-law attorneys in Illinois. With more than 35 years of experience, he focuses his practice on all aspects of Illinois family law. He can be reached at (312) 828-9600. View his Divorce Magazine profile.