What to do if child support is unpaid?

When parents separate one of the parents can apply to the Family Affairs Judge for an order for the other to pay child support to contribute to their child’s maintenance and education. The judge will take factors such as custody arrangements, the parent’s respective incomes, and the child’s needs and lifestyle into account when fixing the amount of child support.

If the child support which has been ordered by a court judgement is unpaid, your first action should be to send the other parent a formal demand in a recorded delivery letter with acknowledgement of receipt stating the terms of the judgement as well as the unpaid instalments.

If the other parent continues to refuse to pay, there are several legal actions open to you to recover child support. The fact that your child is over 18 is not a reason for refusing to pay child support if the child is not independent financially.

The direct payment procedure

You simply contact a court bailiff who can, based on the judgement, set up a mechanism for collecting child support, such as Third-party Debt Order on a bank account or on salary, in order to ensure that child support is paid every month. The Court Bailiff’s fees are payable by the debtor of the child support.

However, this procedure will only enable you to recover arrears for a maximum of 6 months, and if arrears of child support exceed 6 months you will have to apply to the Enforcement Judge for a court order.

The collection of child support payments by the Public Revenue Office

If the direct payment procedure fails, you can apply for public collection by recorded delivery letter with acknowledgement receipt to the state prosecutor at the General Court which has jurisdiction for your domicile. You should attach a copy of the enforceable judgement or the agreement for divorce by mutual consent signed by the lawyers and filed with a civil notary.

If your application is granted, the Public Revenue office will take responsibility for collecting the outstanding sums. However, as for direct payment, the amount of recoverable arrears is limited to the previous six months.

The collection of child support by welfare benefit organisations

Since 1 October 2020, you can ask the Family Allowance Office (Caisses d’allocations familiales (CAF) or the Farmers’ Welfare Office (Mutualité sociale agricole (MSA)), to collect arrears of child support for you. These organisations can now recover unpaid or partially paid instalments of child support based on the judgement directly from the debtor parent. This procedure allows you to recover up to 24-month months of child support arrears. If you live alone the CAF can also grant you a Family Support Allowance which is paid monthly as an advance.

Criminal action: abandonment of family

You can also lay a complaint for abandonment of family if the debtor parent has been refusing to pay the child support for over 2 months. This offence is liable to 2 years’ imprisonment and a fine of €15,000.

If the payment of child support is the result of an amicable agreement which was made with your ex-spouse, you must make an application to the Family Affairs Judge for a judgement which will then be valid as a writ of execution for recovering the unpaid sums.

You should consult a lawyer about these questions who can advise you and represent you in the actions to be taken.