What Happens If You Don’t Pay Your Child Support

child support paymentsChild support is almost always a factor in divorces where children are involved.  Child support is a court-ordered payment that is usually made by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent, though sometimes it works the other way. In joint custody situations, a child basically has two custodial parents so the parent with the higher income may be required to pay child support to the other custodial parent.

Child support is very important for the upbringing and well-being of the child involved. It is intended to be used for things like:

  • Food, clothing, and housing (basic necessities)
  • Medical care & health-related expenses
  • Education-related expenses

Child support is a legal obligation that you are required to fulfill. The consequences of not paying your child support can be dire, both in legal actions and in your relationship with your ex and your child.  Missing child support payments can lead to legal consequences!

Let’s talk about specific consequences.  What happens if you have the money to pay child support, but you don’t think your ex is spending the money on your child, or you think you are paying too much?

If the court finds that you have the ability to pay your child support but are willfully not paying it, you can be found in contempt of court. Being in contempt of court can lead to wage garnishment, fines, or jail time for not paying child support.  Jail time is generally used in California only when all other methods have failed since it has such serious consequences. But, there’s no reason to risk it; follow the court order and pay your child support on time.

Sometimes criminal warrants are issued when a parent is severely behind and owes a lot of unpaid child support.  Criminal warrants are enforceable in any state, not just in the state where it was issued, and a criminal arrest can lead to fines, a sentence of one year or greater than one year in jail, or both.

In some states, there are additional legal penalties involved, including:

  • Suspension of your driver’s license
  • Withholding of tax refunds and other government benefits
  • Revocation of your passport or changes to your immigration status
  • Lien on your home
  • Denial of hunting or fishing licenses
  • Negative impact on your credit score

So what happens if you simply can’t pay your child support anymore due to a job loss or health issues or some other reason?

  • Contact your child support enforcement agency and ask for a temporary payment plan for any payments in arrears.
  • Contact your lawyer to help you request a modification of support payments going forward.

It is important to note that even if you lose your job, you are still responsible for paying the full amount of child support until your child support order is changed by the court.

If you have any questions or concerns about making your child support payments, please don’t hesitate to contact me at 714.841.1931 or fill out a free consultation request here.