How Does a Lien Work for Me?

Enforcing child support can be difficult if you are trying to collect from an ex who simply does not want to pay. Understanding different enforcement techniques is key to collecting your arrears. Also, knowledge of Child Support Enforcement (CSE) is capable or willing to use enforcement methods outside of the standard wage garnishment is also vital. Simply because CSE does not use a specific collection method does not mean that it is not legally available to you. There are plenty of methods that could be used for enforcement, and if you knew about them all, they would make your head spin. Using a lien as one of your child support enforcement methods is just one of them. If your ex owns a home, real estate, or other valuable property, filing for a lien on their property can be useful for collecting what you are owed.

What It Is

A lien is a legal claim on a piece of someone’s property when they owe you a debt. The lien makes it impossible for them to sell the property, especially without your consent. The lien can be lifted once the debt is fully paid off.

When your ex is behind on his child support, a lien can be a powerful tool. Once a lien is filed, you have a controlling interest in that property. 

Let’s say Jack hasn’t paid you child support in over three years, owes more than $60k, and owns a home. You can file for a lien on that home, which would keep him from selling the house without your permission and give you control of the property. If he does sell, you get paid first. He doesn’t see a cent until his debt to you is fully paid off. The lien also hurts the property owner’s credit score, making it more difficult for them to obtain loans or other financing options. It should be noted that liens last between 5 and 10 years in most states and can be renewed before they expire.

What You Can Put a Lien On

A lien can be placed on any valuable property the obligor owns, usually a home or other real estate. Liens can be placed on any personal, vacation, or rental property. 

Liens don’t have to be placed against real estate property, though. They can also be filed against personal property such as boats, cars, aircraft, and expensive jewelry. 


Liens are a way to pressure an obligor to pay a debt. Just because your ex is refusing to pay doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get paid. Your child deserves the same quality of life that they would have had if you two had stayed together. If he refuses to pay, placing a lien on his property is one way to get paid one way or the other.  

Who Can File

If you are owed arrears, you can file for a lien against your ex. Some states will require you to have a judgment for your arrears to file a lien, but many allow you to file a lien if your ex misses a court-ordered payment. If your child support isn’t court-ordered, you will need a judgment to file a lien.

When your ex is shirking his responsibilities to your child, it feels like everything falls on you to make up for it. It shouldn’t have to. Filing for a lien is one way to collect your arrears and get your ex to pay his fair share.

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