Interest on Child Support Arrearages

Because divorce is a matter of state law, whether interest on past due child support is allowed and how it is calculated depends on the state.

Most states charge interest on past due child support. The amount of interest you can collect varies by state. Most states have a fixed annual interest rate, often 10% or higher. A few states have a monthly interest rate, a few allow the court to determine an interest rate and there are those states which do not allow for interest at all.

States that charge interest typically begin its accrual on the day the relevant child support payment is due and not paid.

Is Interest Mandatory?

In some states, the interest is mandatory and the court automatically imposes it. In many states, it is up to you to decide if you want interest to be imposed on past due child support. Because the interest owed can become very large over time, this can sometimes be used as an enforcement strategy should you ever decide to negotiate a settlement.

Often you can’t collect interest on past due child support payments you have already accepted. For example if a payment is a week late you can’t accept it and then get interest for the time it was late.

Collecting the Interest Due

You must first confirm that the language in your child support order include interest. Whether or not the state in which you reside allows for interest to be collected, your order must state that the obligor will owe you interest (whatever amount your state allows) once the payments become overdue. If your child support order does not include this information you must go back to order and request that it be modified to include such language. Be sure to include that the interest becomes an automatic child support judgment otherwise you will find yourself running back and forth to court in order to collect your dues. Of course it is easier to get this accomplished at first rather than having to go back and clean up your messy work but better late than never.

Once the interest rate clause appears in your order, you can then enforcement it through all of the means available to you under child support enforcement laws, including but not limited to wage garnishments and wage executions.

Waiving Interest Due

You may be allowed to waive any interest due to you on your child support order. This is a state by state issue and depends on where you live. The only reason I can think of to waive interest on past due support is to make it a part of a larger strategy. Sometimes it’s about winning the war and not the battle.

Want to know where your state stands on the interest issue? Check out my blog this Friday when I post a listing of states that routinely charge interest and states that sometimes do. Be in the know.

Copyright, Simone Spence

Simone Spence is an author and renowned expert on child support collection. With the mantra “Knowledge is power,” she authored Deadbeats, What Responsible Parents Need to Know about Collecting Child Support and through her firm Child Support Solutions, has assisted nearly 10,000 custodial parents in collecting more than $11,000,000 in child support arrears. Simone Spence is an author, speaker, and has been a child support consultant and coach for over 10 years. She can be reached at


  1. James Worthy says:

    Great informational article. I help people daily around the issues of child support and child custody. The thing that I notice most often is the general public’s lack of knowledge about the systems. Here’s a link to an Op-Ed article about the issue from the other side of the fence…..not the Deadbeat but the Deadbroke!

  2. al pelham says:

    thanks for the information, as it came right on time. I was just having a conversation with a friend regarding child support and this topic came up.

  3. Thank you James Worthy for posting the Op-Ed piece. I agree that a lot has to be looked at concerning the deadbeat dad vs the deadbroke dad. In fact, my next book set to be released this winter is titled Deadbeat vs. Deadbroke and it contains chapters which address this very issue.

    Let me first clear up something in the article which is a bit misleading before I launch into my own opinions. It is against federal law to to “chip away” at the “bad debt” by having child support arrears reduced to zero. It is illegal. Not possible. You can request that the mother voluntarily waive part of the debt in an effort to obtain ‘cooperation’ from the father (to be more willing to pay on a child support debt which has been reduced) but the mother is not obligated and cannot be forced. The only debt which can be reduced when the mothers consent is not needed is debt which is owed back to the state because the mother and children involved were on public assistance. When moms and babes end up on the dole due to a fathers refusal or inability to pay, that money must be paid back. It is not free money. By law, that debt becomes the fathers debt and is repaid whenever the state gets around to making him pay. There are plenty of programs popping up in many states which are allowing fathers to reduce their debt by carving out some and sometimes all of what is owed to the state for payback of welfare. But that’s it. I just needed to clear that up for all of the mothers reading this. I don’t want them to think that at some point they may be forced to involuntarily reduce or eliminate what is owed to them. Money owed to the state would never make it’s way to the moms pocket in these instances. I have no problem with this since she can still collect child support concurrently when the father begins to make payments to the state.

    I disagreed with so much the author had to say but this is what I have a problem with most of all: Read the article again. Make note that the entire article is about the fathers. What is good for the fathers. What is bad for the fathers. How child support arrears hurts the fathers. You know who child support arrears hurts MORE than it hurts the fathers? The hurts the children – but there is little to no mention of them in that article. Child support is for the benefit of the children. It feeds them and clothes them and provides them with what they need to survive.
    I could write an article about how these very same arrears with these very same fathers are also hurting the mothers who have not been able to collect. In fact, maybe I will do that and send it into the Baltimore Sun just to see if they would print the other side of the coin. Yes, both the mothers and the fathers are hurt by the choices that the fathers made which have left them in a pickle and making it hard for them to honor their responsibilities. Can we concentrate on what’s best for the kids?

    Child support arrears and child support collection – making men own up to their obligations are not “pushing men into underground economies”, it is not “perpetrating the drug trade” or “preventing young men from joining the formal economy”. That’s insane. David L Warnock the author of the article says that we can do better. That’s about the only thing that we agree on right now. We can do better. For the children. Leave the male egos out of this. Leave the testosterone out of this. It’s not about you, guys. Get over yourself and take care of the babies that you brought into this world. Stop makes excuses and find a way. In the end, that’s what makes you a man and that’s what’s makes you the father that you claim to be.

  4. Thanks for the great article, Simone. It was very informative. I know interest is not foremost in one’s mind when drafting a child support order so this is good to know.

    I also followed the link to the article by David L. Warnock and had the following thoughts:
    What about the children who never get the funds? How can debt that is not owed to the government just be written off with legislation? And while these fathers are not paying child support, does anybody wonder how the children’s needs are being met? Some mothers are dead broke too but since they are the custodial parents, there is not leeway – the children have to be fed, housed, clothed, treated for medical needs, etc. There must be a better way to care for the needs of the children.

  5. Audrey says:

    This is great information as I am currently dealing with this very subject at the moment.

  6. The Four Room Apartment… A Closer Look

    I read the blog on the question of interest on support payments past due. As I thought about a parent not contributing to the support of their child, four possibilities came to mind. I imagine I would find the non payees in one of the rooms in a four room apartment. ( See matrix-The Four Room Apartment ). The matrix looks at the willingness to pay against the capability to pay. Of course the idea is to get all to the ‘No Problem Room’.

    [Willingness To Pay/Capable] This is ‘The No Problem Room’. I think this is the only room for negotiating matters regarding interest payments.

    [Willingness To Pay/Not Capable] Tthe ‘Income Coaching Room’ is for exploring income producing problem solving. Of course the goal is getting to the ‘No Problem Room’.

    [Not Willing/Not Capable] In ‘The Blood From Stone Room’ we are attempting to get blood from a stone. An education program in an attempt to gain a willingness to pay gets the individual to the Income Coaching Room.

    [Not Willing/ Capable] This is the ‘Full Court Press Room’. This individual may be the classic deadbeat. This individual deserves the ‘Harsh Treatment”. Interest payment where allowable should not be negotiable.

  7. carisa navarro says:

    Simone you are so on point on this topic.As a mother of two children that receive no financial ass. from there father’s I must say it is the biggest struggle of my life to provide well for my children.Mr Jones I’m sorry to say but sounds a little like exscuses are being made on behalf of the men that are not paying support.To many kid’s are not being provided for the way they should be due to the absent parent (men&women)Children should not have to suffer due to one parent not doing what they should for there kid’s,both my kid’s father’s are more than capable of seeking and gaining employment and still nothing happens to them but someone real quick to defend them,sorry to say but I do not agree with you on your comment.Simone thank you for hard work and please keep these blog’s coming.

  8. Patrica says:

    Wow! What about the children its all about the children…no one is trying to hurt the fathers…I am glad that I presently have a friend that takes cares of his arrears he works two legal jobs to take care of his responsibilities…he realizes that he made these children and now that he must pay…maybe he is not happy being without funds but he is glad knowing that his children are financially taken care of…he is also a father to his children…not attacking the mothers at all…I applaud him…for facing his responsibilities…stop whining you should have thought about it before you impregnated the child mother…it is not society fault…that you have a financial hardship….abstinence and good premarital and on going counseling would solve this problem with child support…Men that this pertains to…get over yourself and take care of your babies/children….It is all about the children….

  9. alain smithee says:

    Regarding interest on child support arrears – my family court judge was upset to learn that Federal law [42 USC 654 (21)(A)] limits the interest a state can charge on past-due child support to six (6) percent, and that any state or jurisdiction that charges more six percent interest is in violation of Federal law.

    As far as child support is concerned, I have never had an issue with paying child support. My clashes with my family court judge have been over the fact that child support should be a shared parental responsibility to provide for the children’s needs instead of a requirement that the non-custodial parent pay enough child support (and hidden alimony) to provide a government mandated LIFESTYLE for the children (and by inference, the custodial parent).

    I wanted to use a shared checking account that both parents contribute to [] so that there would be transparency and accountability to make sure that the money was actually spent of the children, but my family court judge said no because ‘…you don’t have a law degree”.

    This is also the same family court judge that wouldn’t enforce my visitation rights when I hadn’t been allowed to see my kids for three months until I told her that I would have my ex-wife arrested and charged with Interference With Custody unless I was allowed to see my kids immediately.

    I’ve also learned during this journey that the states and the courts are gaming the system by ordering the maximum child support award possible in order to collect more federal reimbursements under the Child Support Performance and Incentive Act that go directly into the states general fund with no strings attached [].

    It’s not about providing for the kids anymore – it’s about greed, power, and control for the state.