In the eyes of the law, every child has the right to be supported by both parents. That includes emotional and financial support.

What happens if a parent ordered to pay child support stops doing so? There are a few potential remedies.

Enforcing child support orders

If a party is not fulfilling his or her child support obligations, there are a number of tools the courts can use to secure proper payments. These tools include:

  • Withholding the amount from the payer’s sources of income, such as a regular paycheck or unemployment benefits
  • Taking the amount from a federal or state tax refund
  • Placing a lien against the payer’s property
  • Suspending the payer’s driver’s license, occupational license, or recreational license

Not all of these solutions can be used in every situation. Some may only be utilized if certain thresholds are met, or after a show-cause hearing.

Contempt of court

If a parent is behind on child support or refuses to pay, then the payee – that’s the person receiving the child support – and their attorney can file a civil contempt action. This can lead to a show-cause hearing, where a judge will weigh in on the situation.

If the court finds the payer is able to pay all or a portion of the required child support, the judge can order them to make a payment.  A judge could also levy a fine or even order jail time, if the payer is found in contempt of court. The enforcement solutions listed above could also be considered as a way to compel payment.

Keep in mind, if there has been a significant change in circumstances that inhibits the payer’s ability to pay the same amount, it could ultimately to a modification of child support.

Remember the goal

These types of situations can get complicated – not just legally, but emotionally. The goal is not to make life more difficult. Rather, it’s to ensure children receive the care and support to which they are entitled.

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