One of the most important details that a court puts in a child support order is when it must be paid. In most jurisdictions, child support payments are made monthly and due on a certain day of each month. But what happens if payments are late, or not made at all? Here is a short guide to child support schedules and what to do if the supporting parent does not abide by the court order.

What Is a Child Support Order?

A child support order is a document that directs one parent to pay the other a certain amount of money to financially support their child or children. It is a legally binding order that can be issued either by a state court or a state government agency. The purpose of these payments are to help meet the child’s needs including health care, education, food and clothing, and other basic needs. 

Each state has their own formula they use to calculate how much each child should receive based on living expenses, medical needs, and the paying parent’s income, amongst others. The more children, the higher the child support payment will be. Many child support orders name the payment due date somewhere near the end of the month. This is to ensure that the paying parent has sufficient funds to meet their obligations, as many workers are not necessarily paid at the first of the month.

What Happens If a Child Support Payment Is Late?

Technically, a child support payment is considered late if it is not paid on the date specified by the official order, but most courts will be flexible if it is late by a few days or so. Issues arise, however, if payments are habitually late, or left unpaid for several months at a time. This is when the court or state authorities take action. 

The first step is usually to send the paying spouse a formal notice of delinquency to provide legal notice that are violating a court order. They will also be informed of the possible consequences that can happen if they continue to not make these payments. Late payments may see a small fee added by the state and other consequences, but non-payment carries the most serious punishments.

What Happens If I Don’t Pay Child Support?

Public policy takes non-payment of court ordered child support very seriously, and the state can levy a number of serious punishments if someone refuses to adhere to their responsibilities. The custodial parent will seek the help of the court and state authorities to enforce the court order and levy any punishments given. So what kind of repercussions does failure to pay child support carry? These may include:

  • Withholding Income: The court can order that any number of the parent’s income sources can be tapped to meet their child support requirements. One of the most powerful moves a court can make is to formally garnish the non-custodial (paying) parent’s paycheck. However, they can also take the funds from workers’ compensation benefits, unemployment benefits, and tax returns;
  • Liens And Seizures: A court can have a lien placed the person’s real or personal property, only to be lifted once all unpaid child support is taken care of. In addition, accounts can sometimes be seized for payment;
  • License Suspensions: The court or state can suspend the owing parent’s drivers, recreation, and professional licenses as well; 
  • Credit Hits: Child support debt is considered high-priority and must be reported to credit agencies. Failure to meet child support payments will show up on credit reports, which can affect a person’s ability to get a mortgage, loan, housing, or job in the future; or 
  • Contempt Of Court: In extreme circumstances, a judge can issue a warrant for the person, holding them in contempt of court for violating the child support order. They can then be arrested and spend an amount of time in jail.

Are Late Payments Punishments the Same as Retroactive Child Support?

No, retroactive child support is a different category covering completely different circumstances. Retroactive child support is necessary if:

  • The paying spouse concealed assets to get a lower payment schedule; 
  • The custodial parent needs to be reimbursed for child-related expenses; or 
  • The court finds there are other pressing needs for the funds to help care for the child.

Retroactive child support is treated just the same as regular child support in terms of payment calculations and payment schedules.

Do I Need an Attorney to Help with Late Child Support?

Sadly, late and unpaid child support is a common problem that many parents deal with while also struggling to raise a family. If you are struggling with an issue regarding child support payments, contact an attorney that specializes in family law and child support and custody problems. They will know the proper procedure to file a legal claim or lawsuit against a non-paying parent, and will be your advocate every step of the way.