Can I sue the courts or child support enforcement agency for negligence?

divorce attorney Jill DuffyQuestion:

Several years ago I got a notice from Child Support Enforcement that my monthly support payments were going to be reduced. Ten years later I was informed that this reduction did not take place and I owe thousands of dollars in back child support.

I went to court to find out why the reduction was not entered and neither the courts nor the Child Support Enforcement department had an answer.

Can I sue them for negligence since their error is costing me thousands of dollars?


Suing the state or one of its agencies may not be your best course of action. Most states and state agencies have sovereign immunity.

Sovereign immunity prevents the states or federal government from being sued, unless they give permission to be sued (such as in the case of an intentional wrongful act committed by a state employee). You may not be able to sue the State of North Carolina or the Child Support Enforcement department for negligence.

A simpler course of action may to be to request a hearing with the judge regarding your arrearages. If you can produce a copy of the notice you were provided that your support was to be reduced, they may be able to retroactively reduce your support or waive your arrearages because you reasonably relied upon the information they gave you.

If you no longer have a copy of that notice, you should request a copy of your entire child support file from the Child Support Enforcement department.

You should contact an attorney who is licensed in your jurisdiction to further discuss the specifics of your situation. Cordell & Cordell does represent men in divorce nationwide. Thank you for submitting your question.


Jill A. Duffy is an Associate Attorney in the Troy, Mich., office of Cordell & Cordell. She is licensed to practice in the state of Michigan. Ms. Duffy received her BA in Psychology and Spanish and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Oakland University. She received her Juris Doctor from Michigan State University College of Law and graduated Magna Cum Laude.

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7 comments on “Can I sue the courts or child support enforcement agency for negligence?

    driving for a living since 1975, child support in Montgomery county won’t allow me to drive my cab to work
    Hello, I have some rear child support payments due, for my 23 year old son, who lives in Montgomery County, Maryland Child Support has refused to grant me a work (only) drivers license so that the monthly payments of $209.00 can be made (again) I have been out of work since Nov. 2012 and have lost (3) job offers for employment (driving jobs) and now i have been arrested twice ???? I wish i could sue them ???? Can u help me (pls)

    The fact this happened in North Carolina is not a surprise to me. The NC child support agency screwed my child out of thousands of dollars of support over the years due to common errors. When I called the agency I was ignored. I had to raise hell to get a proper support order. Now that my child is 17teen he will finial get the support he should have gotten from day one. The NC agency is unprofessional. They must lack common math skills and common legal skills that you would think one must have in order to perform the jobs they do. FYI: If you have an x in the military you need to demand a review of the case because in 1990 a law was passed counting BAH and other pay in a support and in 2013 (over 23 years) after the law was passed. The workers still go by the old pre 1990 law.

    The child support agency will not give you your complete file unless you have a court order but you can get the basic file and you can also get the name of the person that worked on your case at the time the review was made. This should help you get started on working the issues out. Again, never trust the agency to be professional always double check their work and do not take a non-reply as an answer. Demand an answer and if the case worker is disrespectable go over him/her head until you get someone to address your concerns.

    I do not have a comment but I do have a question.

    My wife and the State of WA filed for CS in 1971 or 1972 via an Intrastate Petition with the IA Courts which I won because my wife would not respond to my responses to her allegations.

    In 1973 the State of IA awarded a lady I lived with a common law divorce. As stated in the previous paragraph, I was legally married to someone else and the lady who got the “dissolution of marriage” in IA knew my wife and in fact had interacted with my wife socially on a personal basis. The IA Court ordered CS based upon the divorce.

    In 1987 the IA Court filed an Intrastate petition for Back CS in the amount of $14,000+ and Current CS with the KS Court where I lived. The KS Court ruled I owed less than $7,000 back CS and Current CS. IA did not appeal the KS Court ruling.

    In 1998, (not sure of the date), I contacted the KS Courts to find out how much more I owed. Their response was to return 6 of the many KPERS Retirement checks they took by law and to advise me that I had satisfied the KS Court’s order.

    But, in 2001, IA renewed its collection efforts and have been taking money from me ever since.

    The payment records show that I have paid well over $14,000, (more like $21,000), but what I am more concerned with the legal aspects of this case.

    Should not a Court order be illegal and unenforceable if it did not follow proper procedure to begin with. If I was legally married to someone else would not a Dissolution of Marriage that does not apply to my legal wife be illegal and unenforceable, including a CS Order. Isn’t that what the Rules of Civil Procedure are all about?

    I have not been able to get anyone to assist me or to tell me anything that I could do to get this issue resolved. Do you know anyone who would help? Is there anyone out there who will help me ensure they do the right thing by me… I am on a fixed income…

    I need an attorney. I have been trying to get a support case closed. I have filled out and mailed the affidavit for termination of support and mailed it to them. The first time they mailed it back saying she lived in a different county, so I got another money order and sent it back. They sent it back again saying she lives in the county where I sent it the first time. So I went back got another money order and sent it back again. I noticed each time they sent it back the amount on these money orders was always a few dollars more. This went on four times. I was getting angry, so I called them to see what the problem was. Couldn’t get a straight answer from anyone. I told them that I have been paying on her for two years now, she’s out of school, didn’t go to college, has her own job, and now has her own child. She says I should have done this two years ago and I said what about all the money I have paid in the last two years, will I get that back as overpayment, and she says no that I would have to go to court for that. It’s been a month now,I get a new letter saying that the sheriff’s dept couldn’t get the notice served, that she was going to personally mail it to her. I feel I’m getting the run around here all over money. It’s like they will not terminate the order they just keep collecting. This government system is a joke. I just want fair treatment. And I feel as if they are violating my rights as a citizen. If someone can help I could use it. I want the overpayment of support back and I want the case terminated. Thank you

    I live in TN, me &my husband moved & divorced here from NY, TN modified a NY order but did not do it correctly(did not register w/NY orNC-where he currently lives), so when he lost his job as a truck driver (paying $891.00?mth ch supp), he started receiving unemployment insurance. NC child support office would not accept TN stating that order was not properly filed nor prepared by TN office (TN office send order directly to employer and ignored the NC office); My children have not received court ordered child support over the past 4 years because of this. I have been going to court, calling, complaining,: He,s been found in contempt of court. I was told he would be arrested, but only if he comes to TN; Then this years he,s allowed to modify (REDUCE the order, he,s already not paying) over the phone; So, obviously the order of contempt is not going to do me or my children any good. He is about $50,000.00 in arrears, and these arrears accumulated while he was receiving adequate income to pay, but TN could not collect because they had not filed the paperwork correctly in February 2008. So my children have no relationship with their father and we as a family have suffered tremendous financial hardship because of this. I am disabled and have been for the last 16 years, my children were in diapers when we divorced, they are now 19,18,17. You can not imagine what I have had to do and deal with and endure to raise my children keep them safe and stay half way sane. I was told by the TN child support office and I have a letter from them stating this, that NC has finally agreed to enforce the (my) TN case; Today, when I called to get an update I was informed that this was misinformation and that in a couple of weeks I would be informed of their real final decision, I need an attorney, I have been repeately lied to and misinformed by the TN child support office.

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