What happens if I don’t pay child support?
Child support is in place to ensure that the children’s needs do not suffer as a result of their parent’s separation or divorce. Child support is governed by state law and so the specifics may vary depending on where you live. However, most states agree that the parent who has custody of the child or children receives a monthly payment, by the non-custodial parent, that is court determined and payments are mandatory. Although child support is governed through state and local law enforcement, it can become a federal case. Should you miss one or more payments it will cost you more in the end.
Will I be fined? Yes. Failure to make child support payments is considered quite serious. You are subject to a variety of fines and a suspended license. In addition, you may be subject to wage garnishment.
Can I face jail time? Yes. In cases where numerous payments are missed, you are considered in contempt of court and may receive a civil or criminal warrant. Depending on your state’s laws and your legal history with the court, you may face jail time as a result of delinquent payments.
What if I make partial payments? The judge is much more likely to be sympathetic to a parent paying what they can versus paying nothing at all. Most courts are sympathetic to life throwing you curveballs. You might be experiencing health issues that prevent you from working full-time or at all. Your employment situation may have changed from when the original agreement was made and you are making less money.
Can I get the payments lowered? In some cases, you may be able to modify your child support payments. If you find that you are having difficulty paying the monthly amount or you are making less money since the original agreement. You may qualify for a reduction. You will need to file a petition to the court and request to modify the amount. You will also need to provide proof of your financial situation with documents such as credit report, bank statements, tax return, notice of employment termination, etc. It is always advised to communicate with the other parent and create an open communication line.
The reality is, there are non-custodial parents who are looking to work the system or get back at their ex by not paying child support. Therefore the courts have flexibility in ruling for steep fines and penalties in an effort to deter that type of behavior. The ultimate goal of the court is to make sure children of divorce are able to thrive and the custodial parent has financial support from the other parent. If you find yourself in a situation where you are unable to pay the full amount, it is best to pay what you can and request a modification. The judge will be much more likely to hear you out if you can prove that you are doing your best. Seeking advice from a lawyer at a child support law firm Tampa, FL residents count on is always advised as they can guide you through the modification process and assist you in preventing future missed payments.
Thank you to our friends and contributors at The McKinney Law Group for their insight into child support and family law.