Mechanisms for Enforcing Payment of Child Support in New York

November 18, 2011
Louis Sternberg

New York’s Domestic Relations Law (DRL) and the Family Court Act provide a number of remedies to enforce support obligations.

Garnishee (also known as Income Execution / Income Deduction Order) – A process by which payments for current and/or overdue support are deducted from a noncustodial parent’s wages or other income by the noncustodial parent’s employer or income payor.  Additionally, a noncustodial parent’s pension can be levied.

Entry of Judgment – A money judgment will be awarded when a court finds that the noncustodial parent is in support arrears, regardless of whether the failure to pay support is willful or non-willful.  A money judgment also acts as a lien against any interest in personal property or real property (such as a house) in the county in which it was filed.

Interception of Financial Awards (Including Tax Refunds, Unemployment Insurance Benefits, Lottery Winnings) – When a parent is in arrears, the state may intercept many financial payments such as tax refunds, unemployment insurance benefits and even lottery winnings and use those funds to pay the custodial parent.

Seizure of Property – Financial assets of the noncustodial parent, including bank accounts, may be seized in order to satisfy overdue child support.

Sequestration – An enforcement mechanism by which the noncustodial parent’s property is held as security for payment of the support.

Payment of Undertakings and Cash Deposits – The court can order that a noncustodial parent post a bond to ensure that future support payments are made.

Suspension of Licenses – New York State licenses, including professional licenses, occupational licenses and drivers’ licenses can be suspended if a noncustodial parent fails to make support payments regardless of the willfulness of the failure.

Probation – Although it is done very infrequently, courts have the power to put a noncustodial parent on probation for failure to pay support.

Incarceration for Contempt – A noncustodial parent can be incarcerated for non-payment of support.

  • Civil Contempt – The Family Court and Supreme Court have the power to order the incarceration of a noncustodial parent on a showing of a willful failure to make support payments.
  • Criminal Prosecution under NYPL §260.05 and NYPL §260.05.

Legal Fees – In many support enforcement cases, the noncustodial parent may be required to pay the custodial parent’s legal fees / attorney’s fees.  This can result in a custodial parent being represented by an attorney at no cost.


Please note that these remedies are generally only available when the custodial parent has an order of support issued by a court.  These remedies may not be available in situations such as when there is an out-of-court agreement.

This is not complete list of remedies available in enforcing a support obligation and it is always advisable to contact an attorney when deciding upon how to proceed in a support action.