If you’ve never been through a divorce involving kids, you may never have considered what happens when one parent fails to pay child support. Child support is money paid from one parent to the other to ensure a child’s needs are met. Any time a court awards child support, the order contains a start date. This is important because that is the date that triggers the paying parent’s duty to make payments.
What happens when this responsibility is not met? Kids suffer. As a result, every state has a program in place to help receiving parents recover overdue child support.
Every Parent Has a Duty to Support His or Her Kids
The premise behind child support is that every parent has certain rights and duties when it comes to his or her children. One of the main duties is the responsibility to provide financial support. This duty applies whether or not the parents are married, so long as they are legally considered the child’s parents.
Most states have “presumptions” that help establish parentage. For example, most of the time, a father who is married to the mother when a child is born is “presumed” to be the father. This means that he is considered to be the father unless it is proven otherwise.
If a child’s parents are married and divorce or legally separate, many of the issues the court will consider relate to the child. For example, the court will establish who will have custody of the child; whether visitation will be allowed and, if so, under what circumstances; and whether child support will be paid and, if so, in what amount.
Every child support order has a date on which payments must start. If a paying parent misses payments, he or she is said to be in arrears, or overdue. When this happens, the parent who is supposed to have received the payments can take action to enforce the child support order.
Tools for Overdue Child Support Payments
Each state provides tools that can be used to make a non-paying parent pay. In fact, some local agencies and tribes also offer ways to help recover overdue child support.
Here are some of the tools that child support agencies have to collect overdue child support:
- Having employers deduct overdue child support from paychecks
- Intercepting tax refunds and lottery winnings
- Taking money out of the person’s financial accounts, such as credit unions and banks
- Taking part of the person’s unemployment or lump sum workers’ compensation payments
- Suspending the person’s driver’s license or professional license (such as doctors, lawyers, barbers, and contractors)
- Placing a lien against the person’s property and recovering money from the sale of that property
- Reporting the non-paying parent to credit reporting agencies
Federal and state governments also have the power to deny the non paying parent certain services, such as these:
- Denying the person a passport; and
- Denying the person a driver’s license or professional license.
The consequences of not paying child support are significant. In fact, in some cases, the person can be held in contempt of court and sent to jail. In some states, the failure to pay can also be considered a serious crime that may result in imprisonment.
The specific methods for collecting overdue child support are dictated by the laws of each state. For this reason, it is important that you contact a licensed family lawyer where you live if you need advice for your particular situation. You may also contact the state, local, or tribal child support agency for help.