Consequences of Not Paying Child Support
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What Does Child Support Cover?
Child support is intended for the benefit of the child and is usually paid to the spouse who has primary custody. Child support payments are very important for the upbringing and well-being of the child or children that they support. Payments generally cover:
- Basic necessities, such as food, clothing, and housing
- Medical care and health expenses
- Expenses related to education
What Are the Legal Consequences of Not Paying Child Support?
It is very important that child support payments be made in a timely manner and in accordance with the amounts and dates specified in the child support court order. Failure to follow the provisions in a child support order can lead to negative legal consequences. Missing payments can lead to legal consequences.
The court could issue a warrant for the arrest of the parent who has missed child support payments. Warrants issued in connection with child support may be classified as either criminal or civil:
- Criminal Warrants: Issued if prosecutors become involved under federal or state laws. This can occur if the parent is severely behind and owes a lot of unpaid support. Criminal warrants are enforceable in any state, not just in the state where it was issued. A criminal arrest can lead to fines, a sentence of one year or greater than one year in jail, or both.
- Civil ("Capias") Warrants: These warrants are issued when the custodial parent files for contempt of court. Failure to obey a court order is considered contempt of court, which can lead to fines, a short period of time in jail (less than one year), or both.
In addition to the legal penalties described above, failure to pay child support can have other consequences, including:
- Suspension of driver’s license and revoking of driving privileges
- Denial of tax refunds and other government benefits
- Revocation of passport or changes to immigration status
- Garnishment of wages, including unemployment funds or worker’s compensation benefits
- Placing a lien on one’s real property to obtain funds for payment
- Denial of licenses such as hunting or boating licenses
- Lowering your credit score
What Can I Do If I Am Having Difficulty Making Child Support Payments?
If you are having difficulties meeting child support obligations, the following options may be available:
1) Contact your child support enforcement agency and inquire about a temporary payment plan. This may help with payments in arrears and late payments.
2) Schedule a court date and make a request to modify child support payments. A modification of child support payments may be granted if you can show a change in circumstances, such as:
- Change of employment resulting in decreased income
- Changes to child custody or visitation orders
- Economic or medical hardships
- Medical emergency involving the child
- Changes in the child’s needs (i.e., daycare needs, school expenses)
- Speak with a lawyer. Your state may have different requirements or options available that can assist you in making child support payments
3) You may wish to consider the above options even before you have missed a payment in order to avoid the legal penalties for delinquency.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Missed Child Support Payments?
It is common for parents to experience financial hardship that affects their ability to render payments. Of course, it is best if you can avoid late or missed child support payments altogether. Failing to make child support payments can have many undesirable consequences. You should be sure to contact a family lawyer for issues with child support, especially if a warrant has been issued in connection with any court orders.
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Last Modified: 02-09-2017 11:35 PM PST
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