How to Recoup Unpaid Child Support in Maryland

If you have a child support order in Maryland but are not receiving child support, there are three actions you can take to begin receiving the child support payments and recouping amounts past due.

Contact the Child Support Enforcement Administration

First, contact your county Child Support Enforcement Administration (CSEA). In Maryland, the CSEA can receive and track child support payments. The CSEA can collect ongoing child support by withholding the payments from the obligor’s wages and unemployment insurance, up to a certain percentage. The CSEA also has the authority to collect past due child support by the same means and, depending on the amount owed, can also:

  • Intercept the obligor’s Federal and State income tax refunds, workers compensation awards, and lottery winnings; 
  • Garnish the obligor’s assets; 
  • Issue liens on the obligor’s property; and 
  • Seize the obligor’s assets to pay the child support.

The CSEA also can impose sanctions on an obligor who is not paying child support. For example, depending on the amount owed, the CSEA can suspend an obligor’s driver’s, professional, or occupational license until the obligor pays in full; report the obligor to a consumer credit reporting agency; and file for contempt against the obligor.

Request an Earnings Withholdings Order

Second, at the time the amount of child support owed reaches an amount equal to more than 30 days of support, file a Request for an Earnings Withholdings Order. An Earnings Withholdings Order instructs the obligor’s employer to deduct the amount of child support owed from the obligor’s pay and pay the funds to the payee or the CSEA.

File Motions for Relief with the Court

Third, you can file three types of motions against the obligor:

a) File a Motion to Enforce the Child Support Order. This asks the court to enforce the child support order and order the obligor to pay what is required in the order.

b) File a Motion for Judgment. This is a request for the court to enter a judgment in favor of you and against the obligor for the total amount of child support owed. A judgment states that the obligor owes you a specific amount. Some judgments accrue interest until paid. Judgments can be “attached” to certain types of property owned by the obligor, allowing the payee to collect the amount stated in the judgment.

c) File a Motion to Adjudicate the Obligor in Contempt. Contempt is a finding that the obligor has violated a court order. A finding of contempt can impose serious penalties, including being sent to jail until such time as the obligor complies with the court order.

Maryland law permits persons to request the court to consider ordering either party to pay the other party’s costs and counsel fees related to recovering child support arrears and enforcing a child support order; such requests should be made in the initial filing. In determining whether to award costs and fees, the court will consider the financial status and needs of each party and whether there was substantial justification for bringing, maintaining, or defending the proceeding.

If you are not receiving the child support owed, it is important to timely file suit. There are affirmative defenses and statutes of limitations that can prevent or curtail your recovery if you fail to act in a timely manner.

If you have minor children and you are not getting child support, you should consult a family law attorney about how to collect the child support.

Erin Kopelman is a family law attorney at Lerch, Early & Brewer in Bethesda, Maryland. To learn more about collecting child support, contact Erin at (301) 347-1261 or

This content is for your information only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Please consult your attorney before acting on any information contained here.


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