What Happens if I Fail to Pay Child Support?
The purpose of child support is to cover not only a child’s necessities, but also school fees, entertainment, medical, and extracurricular activities. When child support is ordered by the court, the failure to pay court-ordered child support can leave you in contempt of court, which can carry significant civil and criminal penalties.
Being in contempt of court for failure to pay child support
If you owe child support and have not paid, the other parent can go to court and request a hearing. Failure to obey the court’s order to pay child support is called “contempt” of court. If you are found in contempt, you will be served with a document ordering you to appear in court for the hearing and explain why you have not paid the support you owe for your child. Your failure to appear at the hearing will often lead to the court issuing an arrest warrant. You could still face jail time, even if you show up for the hearing, if the judge is not convinced by your reason for not paying the child support you owe.
What can happen at a Contempt Hearing?
The court may order you to make future payments, or allow you to set up a payment plan for catching up on the unpaid support. The amount of your arrearage cannot be reduced, as a prior child support award cannot be modified retroactively. However, future payments may be decreased or modified. A judge can also order that your wages be withheld or a lien placed on your property in order to correct the arrearage.
What about jail time?
It is rare that a court will put a parent in jail for contempt of court. Judges realize that a parent who is in jail cannot earn money to make child support payments, so jail time is counterproductive. Incarceration is typically ordered when an Income Withholding Order (IWO) or wage garnishment has not been successful, and the payor doesn’t have a plan to catch up or make the required payments.
If you have questions regarding child support or any other divorce issues, contact attorney Brad J. Latta online, or by calling (251) 304-3200.