If you fall too far behind with your child support obligation, your ex can come after you to collect with the full force of the government backing her up, no matter where you live. In South Carolina, she needs only to sign up with the Child Support Services Division, or CSSD, of the Department of Social Services. She can also enforce your child support order by going back to court on her own or with the help of an attorney, but it isn’t necessary, because CSSD is waiting in the wings, ready and willing to help her.
The Rule to Show Cause Hearing
The first step in the collection process -- with or without help from CSSD -- involves your ex filing for a Rule to Show Cause hearing with the court. She must serve you with a copy of the paperwork so you know when the hearing is scheduled. You’ll have an opportunity to explain to the judge why you haven’t been paying support. You may have a valid reason, such as illness or job loss. If so, the judge will typically work with you to figure out a solution.
If you don’t have a good reason for skipping payments, the judge can order one or more enforcement measures and might even find you in contempt of court for willfully disobeying a court order -- your child support order. This can result in a fine of up to $1,500 in South Carolina, a year in jail, or possibly both, depending on how far in arrears you are and the facts of your case.
The judge can -- and probably will -- order a bench warrant for your arrest if you don’t appear at the Rule to Show Cause hearing.
If your ex signs up with CSSD to collect your support arrears, the division can take several actions against you, many of them unilateral; the agency doesn’t even have to get court approval first.
- If you’re out of work and collecting unemployment benefits, the state can intercept your payments. It can also take your wages, workers' compensation benefits, Social Security benefits and service-related disability benefits.
- CSSD can place an administrative lien against your real or personal property, including bank accounts, if your arrears top $1,000.
- CSSD can claim your state or federal income tax refunds. You must owe at least $500 in arrears and be three months or more behind before the state can take your federal refund unless your ex is collecting public assistance on behalf of your kids. In this case, the threshold drops to $150. When your federal refund is intercepted, this automatically triggers denial for a passport if you’re $2,500 in arrears or more. Your state refund is vulnerable when you owe at least $100 and haven’t paid in three months or more.
- Your driver’s or professional license can be revoked or suspended if you owe a minimum of $500 and haven’t made a payment in 60 days. The state will give you 45 days’ notice first so you can either pay what you owe or make payment arrangements.
Statute of Limitations
South Carolina has no statute of limitations on collecting child support arrears. If you owe money, the state or your ex can continue pursuing you for it even after your child emancipates and you no longer owe current support.