Once a child support order is established, it continues in full force and effect until it is modified or suspended by the Rhode Island Family Court. The biggest mistake made by non-custodial parents is the failure to file a motion to modify or suspend a court order when circumstances warrant it. Orders cannot be modified or suspended retroactively. Therefore, the order continues to run causing arrears to accumulate and enforcement measures to take place. All enforcement takes place in a computer generated automated way when a certain dollar amount is met or upon a certain event. A custodial parent need not contact the Office of Child Support Services to request enforcement of a delinquent order. It occurs automatically. The following are the enforcement tools that the Office of Child Support Services has available:
This enforcement tool is triggered when the non custodial parent owes at least $25.00 and is at least 30 days delinquent in his child support payments. The federal government will intercept federal payments to pay past due child support before a non-custodial parent is entitled to payments from the federal government For example: private vendors who perform federal government work, small business loans and federal retirement benefits would be subject to intercept. Some payments cannot be intercepted such as: veterans affairs disability benefits, federal student loans, supplemental security income, railroad retirement benefits, and black lung benefits. The non-custodial parent would receive a notice before the intercept occurs.
The state reports the cases to the federal government and the federal government seizes the amount due and sends it to the state. The non-custodial parent must follow the instructions on the notice for relief from the local Office of Child Support Services.
Proceeds from this offset are delivered to families first before the state may retain the money for welfare debt owed.
The federal tax refund program collects past due child support payments from parents who have fallen behind in FIP cases in the amount of $150.00 and non FIP cases $500.00 in child support payments and are due a tax refund. Under this program, tax refunds owed to non-custodial parents are intercepted and sent to the state child support program Only cases receiving full services under the child support program are entitled to this enforcement measure. Cases eligible for tax refund offset are those cases that have a delinquent child support obligation and the child was not emancipated by December 31st of that year.
Non-custodial parents will receive a notice from the state before the case is referred. The notice will include an initial amount due which may vary from the amount actually deducted because of payments made. The notice will also outline how to contest the amount offset. At the time of the offset the IRS will also send a letter to the non-custodial parent stating that all or part of his refund will be sent to the state child support office. The notice will advise the non-custodial parent to contact their local child support office for further information.
Usually the state where the custodial parent resides will submit the obligation for intercept. In cases where the non-custodial parent owes a child support obligation to more than one state, each state will submit their case for offset. The parent will receive a separate notice for each state and must contest in each state. The first state to apply will receive the offset.
The state must first apply the offset against any past due amount due the state in full and then the families past due amount will be paid.
If the non-custodial parent owes past due child support but files a joint return with a spouse, the spouse may be able to request return of part of the refund due. The "injured" spouse must file a claim form preferably at the time the joint return is filed. The state may hold the refund for a period of 6 months before distributing until the IRS has made a determination on the claim.
All cases receiving full services from the Office of Child Support Services are entitled to passport denial process. Persons who owe past due child support in the amount of $2,500 or more will be sent a notice and be referred to the federal government for passport denial. When an individual applies for a passport, the federal government denies the application based upon the child support obligation and sends a notice explaining why the passport application was denied. The applicant is told contact the state Office of Child Support Services for further information. The State of Rhode Island has a zero tolerance policy. The non-custodial parent must pay his/her arrears in full before the state Office of Child Support Services will refer the case to the federal government to remove the individual from the list or lift the denial.
The Office of Child Support Services will report a non-custodial parent who owes the sum of $500.00 to participating banks to match against their records. The banks will provide the information about the savings or checking account and the agency will place a lien on that account in accordance with the lien procedure.
The "Insurance Intercept Act" provides that any insurance company making a settlement of any claim of $3,000 or more, must look up the case on the Rhode Island Website to determine if the non-custodial parent is on the list of parents who owe past due support in the amount of $500 or more. If the claimant is on the list, the insurance company must pay the Rhode Island Family Court the insurance proceeds up the amount of past due child support. The non-custodial parent is notified of the payment to Rhode Island Family Court and of his/her right to request a hearing within thirty (30) days. The payment is held at Rhode Island Family Court for a period of forty-five (45) days. If the non-custodial parent does not challenge the hold, the funds are distributed to the custodial parent and/or the state. The insurance company may pay attorneys fees and medical bills before payment to the Rhode Island Family Court.
The Office of Child Support Services shall provide information regarding the amount of overdue support to consumer reporting agencies. The non-custodial parent is provided written notice ten (10 ) days prior to the release of information to allow him/her an opportunity to contest. A hearing will be held by Office of Child Support Services to determine whether the child support is past due.
Any person who has a past due child support due in the amount of $500.00 is reported to the Director of the State Lottery. Upon a lottery winning of $600.00 or more, the proceeds, after payment of state and federal taxes, shall be offset up to the amount of past due child support. The balance of the lottery proceeds will be payable to the claimant after offset. The payment is made by the Lottery to the Rhode Island Family Court and held for a period of forty five (45) days. The non-custodial parents has an opportunity within thirty (30) days to file a motion with the court to ask for the money to be returned. If there is no challenge within the thirty (30) day period and after the expiration of forty-five (45) days, the funds will be distributed for the past due child support.
If a non custodial parent falls behind in his /her child support payments, the Office of Child Support Services may, if it is appropriate, file a Motion to Adjudge in contempt. The OCSS will first attempt all administrative enforcement measures described here and look at the history of the cases before filing a motion.
If the court finds that the non-custodial parent had the ability to pay child support and willfully failed to do so, they may be found in willful contempt and may be incarcerated until the contempt is "purged". When an individual is found in willful contempt a review by the court shall occur at least once every thirty (30) days to see what efforts are being made by the person to comply with the order, and whether it is still necessary for that person to continue to be held at the ACI." The Rhode Island Superior Court has determined that an indigent non custodial parent facing incarceration must be appointed counsel.
The Office of Child Support Services will serve notice upon a non-custodial parent
who owes ninety (90) days worth of child support payments of the agencies
intention to submit his/her name for license revocation or suspension.
Again, like all other enforcement measures this procedure is automated
for full service cases. The custodial parent need not call the child
support office to request this service. License refers to a driver's
license, professional, business or occupational license. When the non-custodial parent receives the notice he/she may request a hearing at
the Rhode Island Family Court within twenty (20) days. The court may
grant a "stay" or stop the license suspension. Upon receiving
the notice the non-custodial parent may pay all past due child support
or enter into a written payment agreement with the agency to avoid the
If the non-custodial parent does not take the above actions and the twenty (20) day time frame elapses he/she will be referred to the Division of Motor Vehicles for license suspension.
The Office of Child Support Services may refer a case to the United States Attorneys Office for criminal prosecution if the non-custodial parent: has the ability to pay child support, willfully fails to pay a known past due amount which has remained unpaid for longer than two (2) years or is an amount greater than $10,000, and the child resides in another state. The first offense carries six (6) month imprisonment and/or fine. Subsequent violations carry a two (2) year imprisonment and/or a fine. The case must meet the requirement of a criminal offense for it to be referred to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The Office of Child Support Services may send written notice of an intent to lien personal or real property of the non-custodial parent for past due support. There is no minimum amount of past due support which is required for the administrative lien process. The lien includes any unpaid child support that may accrue in the future. The non-custodial parent may request an administrative hearing within thirty (30) days of receipt of the notice to contest the procedure. If the non custodial parent does not request a hearing, or requests a hearing and does not appear for the hearing or does not pay the child support due and thirty (30) days past, the agency will file a notice of lien followed by a levy which means the agency can take the funds from a savings or checking account or levy on an insurance settlement or foreclose on real property up to the amount of child support due and owing.
Although not an enforcement tool, it is important to know that the Office of Child Support Services has access to and may request information about the non-custodial and custodial parent form a number of entities provided in the law. The information requested must be only for the purpose of and to the extent necessary for the administration of the child support program. Entities include, but are not limited to employers, utility companies, tax assessors office, licensing boards, financial institutions, credit bureau, etc. Per the law, a one hundred dollar ($100.00) penalty may be assessed by the agency or the Rhode Island Family court for failure to respond.
An individual who has incurred past due support in the amount of ten thousand dollars ($10,000) or who has willfully thereafter having the means to do so, fails to pay for over a period of three (3) years, shall be guilty of a felony for each instance of failure to pay and upon conviction, be punished by imprisonment for period not to exceed five (5) years. These cases may be referred to the Attorney General's Office for prosecution.
The Rhode Island Family Court may require a non-custodial parent to post a bond, which will be deposited with the registry of the court to satisfy or to secure future support.
A non custodial parent is served with a witness subpoena and a summons to appear in court. Failure to appear may result in a body attachment being issued for your arrest. A body attachment is a civil warrant for a person's arrest. The issuance of the body attachment will be indicated on a statewide computer that is researched by law enforcement officials. If a non-custodial parent with an outstanding body attachment is detained for a traffic violation, he/she may be held at the ACI until the next session of the Rhode Island Family Court. Please see the pamphlet about what to do if a body attachment issues for you (PDF format)
Any past due child support accrues interest at twelve (12%) percent annually or 1% per month on the unpaid balance. A non-custodial parent who owes past due child support must pay back the principal plus any interest that has accrued.