A child support order may be issued by the court in connection with a divorce or separation proceeding or when parents are no longer together and wish to establish the financial support obligations of each parent. Child support is ordered to allow the child to continue to receive the economic benefit of both parents.
The amount of support is determined on a case-by-case basis and is to be paid to the custodial parent by the non-custodial parent. The child support award should be used by the custodial parent for the benefit of the child, including to provide for food, shelter, clothing, health care and educational needs.
A custodial parent can petition state and federal agencies to help enforce a child support award. The delinquent parent can be served with a court order compelling the parent to pay the child support. If the delinquent parent continues to decline to pay the child support award, additional actions may be taken against them.
The most common action that can be taken against the delinquent parent is garnishment of their wages. This means that the employer will automatically deduct from any earned income, the amount of the child support payment, which will be issued to the child support agency for distribution to the custodial parent.
Additionally, the state may seek to seize tax refunds, impose liens, or revoke driving or commercial licenses. Another consequence of not paying child support is a civil or criminal warrant may be issued for the delinquent payment for being in contempt of the court order.
Further, improperly ending child support payments can result in your case being reported to the credit bureaus. Child support is a high priority debt and can lead to a negative reporting each time the delinquent parent fails to make payment.
There are serious legal and financial consequences for a parent who fails to pay the amount of a child support award or stops payment entirely. If the child support is made pursuant to an informal agreement between the parents, it may be easier to modify or terminate child support payments with the other parent’s consent.
Therefore, If the parent has an amicable relationship with the custodial parent, the non-custodial parent can make every effort to come to an agreement with the custodial parent to modify or terminate the child support order.
Otherwise, the non-custodial parent will need the approval of the court to stop the child support payments. The parent should start by petitioning the court to modify the child support order. A court will grant a request for modification of a child support award if the parent can show a change in circumstances, which may include:
- Reduction in income through no fault of the parent;
- Physical incapacitation of one of the parents;
- Changes in visitation schedule or child custody;
- Medical emergency of the child or parent;
- Change in the needs of the child; or
- Child is no longer a minor or has been emancipated
If successful, the court will terminate the child custody award entirely. Alternatively, the court may decline to stop the payments but order a reduction in the amount of the award.
This is more likely to be the end result if the court finds there is a change in circumstances that is likely to be temporary. For example, if the parent has been laid-off, the court will consider the parent’s ability to become employed again so as to continue making payments.
Child support payments must be terminated legally. The order itself may indicate the circumstances under which payment may be reduced or terminated, but otherwise child support payments should not be assumed to end automatically.
Depending on the child support order in your case and state requirements, you may be required to petition the court to terminate the court order once the child reaches the age of majority or becomes emancipated.
An emancipated child is one who has successfully petitioned the court to allow them to become self-supporting and who no longer needs the financial support of their parents. The parent of an emancipated child can be relieved of their obligation to make child support payments.
You can always check with child support agencies in your state or consult with an attorney in your state to learn when your child support payment obligations end.
Most parents will make every effort to satisfy their child support payment obligations. However, events will occur that may require that the child support be terminated or modify. There are consequences for modifying or terminating a support order without judicial approval.
Therefore, it is best to consider consulting with a child support lawyer for assistance. A lawyer can help you understand your child support payment obligations and advise you how to change the order if necessary.