Kids are entitled to financial support from both parents, even when their parents no longer live together, so states make a firm commitment to collect child support when families break up. Louisiana’s collection methods are on par with the rest of the country, but in some ways, the state is a bit tougher when a parent owes back child support.
Child Support Enforcement Services
The Office of Child Support Enforcement operates within the state's Department of Children and Family Services. The CSE offers a wide range of services to parents who sign up, from establishing paternity to collecting child support and monitoring accounts to catch those that go unpaid. Custodial parents who are receiving public assistance are automatically signed up with DCFS; others must fill out an application and pay a small fee. If your ex stops paying support, CSE will automatically take action to collect through a variety of means.
The Role of the District Attorney
In some Louisiana parishes, the district attorney assists in collecting past due child support. Custodial parents don’t usually have to take any steps of their own to enlist this extra help. CSE will reach out to the district attorney’s office for assistance in collecting arrears if necessary.
Contempt of Court Proceedings
Either CSE or the custodial parent – if she doesn’t want to go through state services – can file a petition with the court asking the judge to hold the noncustodial parent in contempt for not paying support. The parent must appear before the judge and show why he shouldn't be held in contempt for disobeying the support order. This generally requires that he provide a good reason for not paying, such as job loss or an illness that prevents him from working. If the judge isn’t satisfied with the explanation, he can order jail time of up to 90 days, a fine of up to $500, or both. The judge may suspend the sentence if the parent immediately pays some amount toward the arrears, as well as court costs. If the parent pays the full amount of support owed, the court will purge the sentence. The court can also order a parent in arrears to post a cash bond -- if he falls behind again, he’ll lose the amount of the bond, which goes to the custodial parent.
The Most Wanted List
Louisiana law allows CSE to publicly post a "Most Wanted List" of noncustodial parents who are at least $10,000 in arrears and haven’t made a support payment in six months or more. The posting invites citizens to call in and report the whereabouts of these parents.
Statute of Limitations
The state doesn't give up on all these collection efforts too quickly. Louisiana has a 10-year statute of limitations for collecting child support arrears, and the law includes provisions for extending child support judgments, effectively breathing new life into them, before the 10-year period expires.