What Happens if Someone Fails to Pay Child Support?
Once a court orders child support, the parent is required by law to pay it. When a parent stops paying it, there are consequences. Of course, many reasons exist why a parent may stop, but if it is because of a substantial change in circumstances, that parent should properly go through the courts to request a modification of child support.
When a Parent Fails to Pay Child Support in California
When a parent fails to pay child support, there may be a reason for it. Loss of income, however, is not a valid reason. That said, if the non-custodial parent does lose their job, they can file a motion to modify the child support order.
Many times, a court does not initially order the child support to be garnished from the parent's wages. So, the parent just stops paying. Other times, the non-custodial parent's wages are garnished, but the parent quicks the job and finds another job without telling anyone and then stops paying child support.
Whatever the situation is, when a parent fails to pay child support, that can be stressful on the other parent––especially when they depend on the money for caring for the child. Child support can be used for things like:
- Costs to maintain the home (e.g., paying utilities)
- Public school education expenses
- Entertainment for the child
When child support payments stop suddenly and aren't paid for any length of time, that can put a serious financial burden on the custodial parent.
How to Respond to a Parent's Failure to Pay Child Support
How to respond depends on the circumstances of each individual case. Much of it has to do with whether or not a child support order was ever filed.
No Child Support Order
Sometimes, parents come to an agreement about child support. The non-custodial parent will agree to pay a certain amount each month. They come to this agreement with the involvement of the courts, and so a court order is never filed. When the parent fails to pay it, you often do not have a way to make the non-custodial parent pay. A court cannot enforce an order that does not exist. That's why you always want to go through the courts for child support, child custody, and spousal support––it is the only way to protect yourself and your child. Your best bet is to talk to the other parent and try to come to an agreement. If that fails, you should contact a child support lawyer in State to file a petition with the court for child support.
Court Order Issued
If you do have a court order, the starting point can still be the same: talk to the other parent and find out what has happened and come up with a plan. If that does not work, contact a lawyer. Some states have a time frame before it considers child support payments as late, and our child support attorney will advise you regarding it as well as guiding you through the process to enforce the child support order, among other potential remedies.
Typically, a notice is sent to the non-paying parent first. The notice explains the child support enforcement process and provides a timeline to comply with the notice.
If the non-paying parent lives in another state, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, a federal law, allows the custodial parent to collect child support across state lines. Child support orders are enforceable by the state where the order was originally issued––this is known as continuing jurisdiction. In fact, even if the custodial parent moves with the child outside the state where the original child support order was issued, the same state has jurisdiction. Likewise, if the non-paying parent needs to modify child support, the laws of the original state will apply.
Possible Consequences for Failure to Pay Child Support in California
Co-parenting is hard enough when everyone plays by the rules, but when one parent stops, it can be frustrating. The so-called deadbeat parent is considered to be “in arrears” when they fail to pay child support, and the support owed is called “arrearages.”
The Child Support Enforcement Act of 1984 is federal law authorizing district and state attorneys the right to collect arrearages and to impose penalties on the non-paying parent. The penalties may include:
- Garnishing wages
- Intercepting unemployment insurance
- Intercepting tax return
- Suspending driver's license
- Suspending a professional license
- Placing a lien on the home or other property
- Freezing bank accounts
- Filing a civil contempt order, which could result in jail time or a diversion program
Can a Parent in California Stop Visitation if the Other Parent Fails to Pay Support?
Custody and visitation rights are completely separate from child support. One parent cannot prevent a child from visiting with the non-paying parent on the ground of failure to pay child support. Keeping a child from the non-paying parent can create legal problems for the custodial parent.
At Giammichele Law, APC, our child support lawyer wants what is in the best interest of the child. That means child support should be paid. If the parent cannot afford it, the parent should go through the proper process to request a modification.
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