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How Long Does It Take to Get Child Support Payments?

When you’re a struggling single mother, sometimes child support is a wonderful option. It makes sense that it took two people to make a child, so two people should financially support the child.

However, it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes, a Child Support Agency needs to step in to make that happen. How long it takes to receive those payments can vary though.

It can take months to a year depending on the steps that need to be taken. Personally, I’m a single mother with three amazing children. With those three amazing children come three very different child support scenarios!

What your situation is will help you determine when you will finally receive child support payments. Please keep in mind that this is based on my personal experience and research I’ve done.

For an accurate estimate of when you will be able to receive child support payments, contact your local child support enforcement agency. 

How Long Does It Take To Start Receiving Child Support Payments?

This can vary from a month to a year. With my oldest, we had to establish paternity (the agency completed a paternity test), and I backdated the child support to the day she was born.

In my county, that means that it takes weeks longer for a child support order to be finalized. Once it does, it can take several weeks to start receiving it, and that’s only if both parties cooperate. 

My middle child’s father and I both cooperated with child support fully. It took a couple of months to start receiving child support payments. It took two weeks for me to receive the debit card that the payments would be deposited to as well. 

Then, we have the littlest. She is not biologically mine, but instead, I have third party legal custody. When I was granted temporary custody for the second time, the father was ordered to pay child support.

The judge determined the amount, and he was ordered to begin payments in four weeks. The paperwork was forwarded quickly to the CSEA (Child Support Enforcement Agency), and payments were prompt. 

As you can see, it varies. It depends on how cooperative the other parent is, whether you know where they work so that money can be deducted promptly from their paycheck and whether the court is involved.

Based on my experience, things that go through juvenile court can get done a bit quicker. Regardless, the sooner you start working through the steps to receive child support, the quicker you will start receiving payments. 

Step One: Contact Your Local Child Support Agency

calling child support

In order to receive child support, you’ll need to contact your local agency. Tell them that you would like to establish a child support case, and ask them what else you need to do.

They will ask you several questions, such as your name, your child’s social security number, birth date, etc. This information is necessary to establish a case, so it’s important to have the necessary documents next to you when you call. 

Step Two: Paternity

You do not always have to establish paternity on your own before opening a child support case.

Most agencies will complete a paternity test for you. If the father signed the birth certificate or the paternity affidavit at the hospital, this might also work in lieu of establishing paternity.

Make sure that you have these documents available so that the CSEA can make copies of them. When you do not have to complete a paternity test, it can speed things up quite a bit. 

Step Three: Establish Support Order

Some agencies will require that you go in front of a judge to do this. They will set a court date, and you will appear before the judge. Typically, a judge will ask about your current expenses.

This includes any expenses related to the child, such as extracurricular activities, prices for school uniforms yearly, etc. The judge will ask if either of you have any other children, and this will be calculated into child support as well.

People with more children are required to pay less support per child because they have to support more children. 

Other counties may complete the worksheet and calculations at the Child Support Office. They will ask the same questions and calculate the support in the same manner.

Whether you appear before a judge or complete the process at the agency often depends on the state and county that you reside in.


Step 4: Receive Child Support Payments

After the child support order is established, you will begin to receive child support payments.

Most of the time, this is arranged so that the agency withdraws the money from the other parent’s paycheck. It is then sent to you via direct deposit or a child support card.

If you opt to receive this money via a child support card (these work exactly like a debit card), you will have to wait 1-2 weeks to receive your debit card in the mail.

The direct deposit is much quicker. You’ll need your account number, routing number, and sometimes an empty deposit slip to set up a direct deposit.

Most payments will post to your bank account earlier than they will to your debit card, so it’s important to keep that in mind when deciding. 

It can take anywhere from two weeks to two months for the child support order to make it’s a way through the agency and for them to begin sending you child support.

Some agencies are able to do this quicker than others due to having fewer cases. If you would like a closer timeline, it’s important to ask the child support agency in the county that you reside in. 

How Long Does It Take For Child Support Payments To Process?

Typically, child support payments will process and be sent to you within a week. Sometimes, it can take two weeks. However, that is not something you can depend on.

In my county, they have up to 14 business days to process payments. Some weeks, there is no child support payment, but I will receive two payments the following week. 

Contacting your child support agency can tell you whether a payment was received and is being processed through. They can usually look this up on the computer.

If you and your child’s other parent are on good terms, you can simply ask them if it was taken out of their paycheck too. 

Certain Steps Might Mean It Takes Longer For You To Receive Child Support

how long does it take to receive child support

While the above process is typically how things go, there are other steps that can mean it will take longer for you to receive payments.

It’s important to still cooperate with child support as you will receive your child support payments eventually, but don’t count on them being sent to you within a week or two, especially if you encounter one of these situations. 

Establishing Paternity Can Add Up To A Couple Of Months

If paternity must be established by the agency, this can add a couple of months to when you’ll receive child support payments.

This is because first, the agency has to arrange the paternity test. Then, both you and the other potential parent must take the test. Next, they must wait for the results before moving forward. 

The Other Person Can Appeal The Decision

If the other parent disagrees with the amount, they have the right to appeal the decision. In my county, this involves another meeting with the agency. Then, a second appeal calls for an appearance before the judge.

Each appeal means that you have to wait for another date to appear either at the agency or in court, and then go through the process of going over the calculations again. It can add two months or longer to the process. 

Backdated Child Support Takes Longer

As a general rule of thumb, backdating child support means that you will wait at least a few extra weeks to receive support. You do have the option to backdate child support to the day the child was born, the day the order was filed, etc.

However, if you’re in a hurry to receive child support payments, it might be better to simply say you would like it to start from the day of the support order. Consider your own financial decision to make the right decision for your household. 

What If The Other Parent Does Not Cooperate With Child Support?

If the other parent refuses to cooperate with a child support enforcement agency, you can trust that it will be a lengthy process. The child support agency will have to track down the other parent.

They might have to find out where they work, and if they’re working under the table it can be impossible to determine an actual amount that they earn, so they will have to go on their word. 

Don’t lose hope, though! Child support agencies have ways to deal with these things. It might sound a bit harsh, but they can send a letter stating that a person can go to jail if they do not cooperate with child support.

Then, when the person calls child support stating that they have received the letter, this counts as address verification. (They must be able to receive mail at the address specified if they returned the phone call…)

Keep cooperating with your local child support agency, and trust that you’ll get through the process eventually. If the other parent is impossible to locate, for the time being, don’t forget that you can backdate child support.

Them being uncooperative does not mean that they are not legally obligated to support their child. It only means that it will take a little bit longer. 

Single Mom Side Hustles

If you’re in a rush for child support, chances are that you need the extra cash. As single parents, we could all use the extra money. In my particular situation, I’ve learned long ago not to be dependent on child support.

(The littlest one’s dad only pays $18 a week, for example.) Keep cooperating with child support, even if you have an uncooperative parent, and it will pay off eventually.

In the meantime, it’s time to find a side hustle to get by. There are more options than you realize!

Pick Up A Second Job

There are plenty of jobs that will work around your schedule. Fast food, restaurant jobs, and department stores often employ people that only work one or two days per week.

Some factories also hire weekend shifts to avoid having other employees work seven days per week. If you have child care, this is a great option for a stable second income.

mother and baby using a laptop

Online Survey Sites

Sites like Swagbucks and InBox dollars might not pay you minimum wage, but they require so little effort it doesn’t matter. You can shop through the websites and earn cashback.

Earning a few bucks for watching commercials can easily be accomplished while watching a movie with your kids. It’s not the most profitable option, but it’s a few dollars you didn’t have before and it’s really easy. 

Door Dash And Uber Eats

Food delivery options like Door Dash are continuing to increase in popularity. The market estimates that they will remain a popular option long after the pandemic is over.

One great thing about these for single parents is that you can take your children with you! When picking up orders from restaurants, you can run through the drive-through instead of going inside the restaurant where available.

You also don’t have to go inside a customer’s home, so you’ll always be within eyesight of your little one. 

In Conclusion

It can take two months or longer to begin receiving child support payments. If the other person switches jobs or is uncooperative, it can take significantly longer.

Child support is not always reliable enough to replace the second income in the household either. While you’re waiting, consider trying out jobs that you can do with your kids or from home to make a little bit of extra money.

Even if you quit once you start receiving child support, they will be a nice option to fall back on if you catch yourself facing hard times in the future.