The family court system takes the care and welfare of minor children very seriously. One way they do that is to order one parent to pay child support when the parents are getting a divorce. Many divorcing parents don't take this order seriously enough and end up suffering from some of the consequences. Take a look at a few things that can happen when a parent fails to pay child support as agreed.
Child Support Payment Issues
If the paying parent falls behind on payments, they may need to ask the judge for a modification which involves recalculating their child support obligation. They must have a good reason to ask for a modification. Common reasons include getting fired from a job (and not just resigning) and serious illness or injury. The judge may or may not grant a modification. State and federal laws provide a wide range of punishments if the parent fails to take action or follow through, however.
Potential Consequences of a Failure to Pay Child Support
- Contempt of court charges – Since child support is an order, failing to obey it can be construed as contempt of court. Most judges will take this route only when the parent is unwilling to cooperate. That is because the parent that claims not to have enough money to pay child support could be in even worse shape if they are fined or jailed for contempt of court.
- Wage garnishment – Judges can impose deductions on the parent's paycheck, and this is what usually happens. In some cases, child support enforcement agencies also have that power. The money is removed from the parent's pay and sent directly to the receiving parent. If the paying parent has a history of non-payment, the garnishment could go on indefinitely.
- Suspension of professional licenses and driving privileges.
- Passport cancellations.
- Income tax refund seizure.
- Liens on bank accounts and real estate.
Things can get far more serious when federal law takes over. If the parent has moved to another state in an attempt to avoid paying child support, the federal government has resources to locate these parents and impose extremely hefty fines and even prison time.
Whether you owe back child support or it is owed to your minor-aged child, don't just ignore the problem. Speak to an attorney practicing divorce law about child support that has fallen behind, and move forward with support and legal help.