Collecting past-due child support is a big problem in this state and nation. The Division of Child Support Enforcement in Virginia has attorneys who regularly appear in courts to hold deadbeat dads and mothers accountable. Courts can and sometimes do put in jail those men and sometimes women who do not pay their child support obligations. Failure to pay support can cause suspension of licenses including operator’s licenses, and can cause tax refunds to be intercepted and used to satisfy all or part of an obligation. Just recently the Supreme Court of Virginia decided a case allowing for another way to collect back child support.

In the NKOPCHIEU vs. MINLEND case, the Supreme Court of Virginia ruled that the law allows for collection of child support by tapping into a payor’s retirement benefits through the use of a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). This case involved a married couple but may apply as well to unmarried parents. By using the courts in suitable cases the parent may be able to collect back child support by having the payor’s retirement benefits divided up to satisfy an arrearage.

QDRO(s) are normally used to divide retirement benefits of married couples. Judges can, in a divorce action, award up to one-half of the marital share of the spouse’s retirement benefit to be split off or set aside for the other party. This split is done by entering a Qualified Domestic Relations Order and serving it on the plan administrator of the retirement plan. A judge can enter the same kind of order for payment of child support even if the parties entered into a separation agreement waiving any right to the other’s retirement benefit.