Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jan 7, 2021

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  • Obligor and obligee are synonymous with debtor and creditor.
  • The terms obligor and obligee are mostly used in the context of family law — specifically child support.
  • The obligor is the parent who is required to pay child support and the obligee is the parent who collects child support.

Who is the obligor and who is the obligee?

The simplest answer to this question is that the obligor is the person who is bound to perform some legal obligation and the obligee is the person who benefits from the performance.

These terms can apply in a variety of legal circumstances, but in most contexts, other words with the same meaning are used. Much more frequently, the obligor is called the debtor and the obligee is called the creditor. The specific terms obligor and obligee are mostly used in a family law context to refer to the child support relationship between divorced parents.

If you’re involved in a divorce or in a child support determination, having an experienced family law attorney can make a huge difference. You can begin your search for a nearby divorce attorney by entering your ZIP code into our search tool right now.

What does it mean to be an obligor or obligee?

The obligor is the parent that is required to pay the child support to the other parent, and the obligee, or obliged, is the parent who receives the payment.

As a general rule, once a child support amount has accrued, the obligor is required to pay that amount, regardless of circumstances. For example, if the obligor is required to pay $500 each month, he or she will owe $1,500 if they do not seek modification and fail to make payments for three months. Even if the obligor loses their job, the $1,500 remains due and cannot be discharged in bankruptcy like other civil judgments.

Falling behind on child support payments can lead to problems such as wage garnishment, loss of driver’s licenses, and other problems. Therefore, it is important that an obligor parent pay what is owed, and make an effort to change child support amounts when there is a change in income of either parent.

If the obligor or obligee experience a change in financial status or income, either the obligor or the obligee may petition the court to change the amount of the monthly child support obligation.

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Modification and “Final Orders”

Many parents are frustrated by the term final orders because they never seem to be final. This is true; each time an obligor gets a significant pay raise, they can be taken back to court by the obligee and ordered to pay a new child support amount based on their new income level.

Similarly, if an obligor is laid off or experiences a salary cut, they can petition the court for a reduction in their child support obligation, leaving the obligee with a lower payment each month.

The same is true of the income for an obligee parent; if the obligee’s income increases, the obligor parent may usually file a motion requesting that child support be recalculated. If the obligee’s income decreases, such as by the loss of a job, the obligee may ask the court to increase child support to make up for the lost income.

If the obligor parent fails to pay child support as ordered by the court, the obligee may file a motion to enforce the obligor’s child support obligation. Additionally, in some states, a child who has turned eighteen years of age may sue to recoup back child support from a delinquent parent.

Child support arrearages are never removed from a parent’s record. In fact, if an obligor fails to pay child support for a lifetime, the arrearage may be taken from any assets that may happen to be part of the estate of the obligor parent. In short, once child support is ordered, the obligor parent is unlikely to relieve themselves of the obligation even if the ex-spouse doesn’t press enforcement.

Bringing it all together

An obligor is a debtor, the parent who is required to pay child support. An obligee is a creditor, the parent who collects child support.

Even though a divorce is granted with a final order, that order can be modified if the financial situation of the obligor or obligee changes significantly. The obligation to pay child support, however, is one that cannot be discharged. Even if the obligor declares bankruptcy, the debt for child support will not be extinguished.

If you are going through a divorce or seeking a modification of your child support, you shouldn’t go it alone. Enter your ZIP code into our search tool to find experienced family law attorneys near you right now.