Contempt of Court for Child Support
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Contempt of Court for Child Support
Child support is a requirement for parents to pay for the costs of raising a child until that child reaches the age of adulthood. When a parent does not pay the court-ordered child support, that parent may be in contempt of court. Punishment for contempt of court in child support cases can include incarceration.
What Is Child Support?
When a couple is still married, the parents share responsibility for providing for the child, and the court does not need to intervene. However, when the parents separate or divorce, child support must be decided.
Usually, the father makes child support payments. The payments are either made directly to the mother or to a clearinghouse through the court, then distributed to the mother.
Child support covers:
- Basic necessities such as clothing and shoes, groceries, and costs associated with keeping a roof over the child’s head, like rent or utility bills.
- Medical care and expenses, including health insurance premiums, prescriptions, and unexpected and uninsured medical expenses due to health emergencies.
- School expenses, such as tuition, books and supplies, tutors, and uniforms.
- Extracurricular activities, such as sports, clubs, and summer camps.
- College tuition.
- Childcare, including daycare, and babysitters.
How Is Child Support Determined?
When a couple divorces, child support will be determined during the divorce proceeding by the court. If the couple is unmarried, the mother can seek child support from the father by filing a petition for support with the court. In addition, the local government can intervene and seek child support if it provides services to the mother, such as health insurance.
In determining the amount to set for monthly child support payments, the court will review the father’s:
- Income, including wages, tips, commissions, bonuses, and outside forms of income.
- Government benefits, including social security, disability, unemployment, veterans’, and other monthly benefits.
- Any special accounts, such as retirement accounts, pensions, annuities, and investments.
The court will also consider:
- The quality of the child’s life prior to the divorce
- Various expenses associated with the child’s care
- Any special needs
The court will try to fashion child support payment amounts that allow the child to maintain the same standard of living after the divorce. This will maintain stability in the child’s life and will provide adequate care for the child.
Child support amounts can only be modified by the court. Thus if the father loses his job, is demoted or becomes disabled and is unable to work, he will still be responsible for paying child support.
What Happens When My Ex Violates the Child Support Order?
Violating a child support order is violating the law. You are entitled to these support payments by law.
If your ex pays less than the support amount or does not pay at all, he will owe you every penny he has failed to pay. You can seek back pay for missing child support through the court by filing a motion for contempt. If your ex has violated the child support order, he may be found in contempt of court.
During the motion for contempt hearing, the court will review the calculations for child support and determine the exact amount of child support that is owed. The court will then ask your ex why he has failed to make those payments.
If your ex proffers a valid reason, the court may give him additional time to make payments. The court will draft a new order that will state the exact amount owed and the date that your ex must pay this by. The order will also state that your ex is still responsible for paying the monthly amount in the future. The court may even draft a new order that modifies child support payments.
However, the court is not required to give your ex extra time. The court may instead find your ex in contempt of court for failing to pay child support. If your ex is able to pay you or the court the entire amount of back pay during that court hearing, then the case will revert back to the original monthly support order. However, if your ex cannot pay at the time of the hearing, then he will be found in contempt of court.
What Are the Punishments for Contempt of Court?
When your ex is found in contempt of court, he will be incarcerated until he pays the amount owed. The court will set a purge amount, which is the amount of back pay owed. When he or someone else pays this purge amount, he will be released from jail. He will still be responsible for future monthly payments.
Contempt of court jail time is necessary for some individuals because it punishes them for ignoring the court’s child support order and deters them from failing to pay child support in the future.
Do I Need a Lawyer for a Child Support Issue?
Calculating child support can be extremely difficult. You need to remember every child-related expense imaginable. You also need to know all sources of income that your ex has in order to determine his ability to pay. In addition, if your ex has failed to pay child support, you need to figure out what you are owed. An experienced family law attorney can help you calculate these amounts using forensic accounting, advocate for the amount you believe you are owed, and seek assistance with obtaining back pay.
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Last Modified: 02-13-2017 12:49 PM PST
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