How Do I File for a Federal Tax Refund Intercept on Unpaid Child Support?

The process by which married or "partnered" couples legally separate and divorce produces plenty of points of contention. If the two involved parties own significant amounts of "common" property, the divorce process can take months or even years to resolve. Likewise, battles over child custody can become extremely vitriolic and create impasses that can drag on indefinitely. If you're going through a painful divorce that involves your biological children, chances are good that you have plenty of questions about your rights and obligations.

If you've been granted custody of your children, you're eligible to receive child support. Depending upon your household income level, you may also be eligible to receive government grants through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. This form of welfare is designed to provide you and your children with a poverty-level income that may permit you to remain in your home and afford adequate supplies of food and clothing. It's typically prorated in accordance with the amount of child support that you're slated to receive each month. In other words, your TANF income will decrease as your child support income increases. In turn, your child support earnings will be determined by your ex-spouse's income level.

Depending upon the circumstances surrounding your divorce, your former spouse may choose to withhold child support payments due to an unresolved disagreement. Alternatively, he or she may withhold payments due to a sudden working-hour reduction, job loss or criminal conviction. Your state's child welfare bureau can't legally or practically compel your destitute ex-spouse to pay child support out of his or her own pocket.

However, your state's child welfare bureau can harness part or all of your ex-spouse's federal tax refund to satisfy a child support debt. Known as "federal tax refund intercept," this novel means of collecting back payments on child support debts is administered through the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program. Some individuals and agencies refer to this program as "Project Intercept."

To file for a child support intercept through the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program, you'll need to talk to your state's child welfare bureau. In most cases, a staff member will help you fill out the appropriate application forms. The bureau will then send these forms to the U.S. Treasury Department as well as the IRS. If you're eligible to receive more than $500 in delinquent child support payments, it's likely that your request will be approved and your ex-spouse's refund will be garnished.

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