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Child support is a big deal for children who need it. It can also be a large amount of money. In fact, an Illinois agency collects more than $1 billion in child support annually. This past year the agency collected the most it ever has at more than a whopping $1.4 billion.

The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services says it collects the money in a variety of ways. Most of the money is gained through income withholding. But the rest comes through more coercive means. For instance, the agency will sometimes freeze and seize bank accounts when owing parents fail to pay their obligation. Other times, it directs professional and occupational licensing agencies to suspend or rescind licenses. The agency will also sometimes ask the Department of Natural Resources to deny non-compliant parents hunting and fishing licenses.

As the agency’s collection options suggest, Illinoisans owed child support have several options to enforce a child support order. To maximize collection, the best approach is to be proactive: Stay current. If a co-parent begins to get behind, work with him or her and the local child support enforcement office to set up a payment plan.

When that approach does not work, going to court may be necessary. A parent owed child support can ask the court to attempt to collect the back child support. The court, like the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, has several ways to enforce the child support order.

These options include refusing to issue or renew a passport or intercepting tax refunds, lottery winnings, and social security checks. The court can also place a lien on property so the parent who owes child support cannot sell the property without giving the government a portion of the proceeds. And if all else fails, the court can put the parent in jail.

Child support is a big, and often complicated, matter. Those who find themselves confronting these issues should consider speaking with an experienced attorney who can help guide them through the matter.

Source: Daily Reporter, “Illinois announces it collected $1.4 billion in child support, highest total in state history,” Aug. 8, 2014