A Legal Council Guide

« Back to Home

Will You Go To Jail For Not Paying Child Support?

Posted on

Courts take child support payments very seriously. Unlike other divorce issues that are disagreements between two adults, child support is supposed to make sure that children, who can't take care of themselves, are cared for despite the divorce. Because of this, courts impose harsh penalties for not paying child support up to and including possible jail time. Here's what might happen if you don't pay child support.

A Late Payment

If you make a payment and it's late, it might not be the end of the world. Courts understand that people can be late with bills and other obligations because their paycheck is delayed and they simply forget.

The occasional late payment probably won't be met with more than a predetermined late fee and/or interest charge. However, if you make a habit of paying late, the court might consider it a willful noncompliance with the child support order.

Can't Afford Payments

Child support payments are set as a percentage of your income. Therefore, it's going to be very difficult to convince a court that you are unable to afford child support payments.

However, if you have a significant change like a pay cut, job loss, or medical condition, you may be able to seek a recalculation of the child support amount. You will likely be held liable for all past due payments, but may be offered an adjusted payment schedule.

The important thing is to proactively reach out to the court and your former spouse. You want to show that you are being responsible and making efforts to pay not that you are making excuses only after you have fallen behind on payments.

What Happens if You're Still Not Paying?

If you continue to not pay, you will be ordered to come to court. The court will issue what's known as an "order to show cause" requiring you to give a good reason for not paying child support.

If you don't have a good reason, the court may begin collections actions. This could include directly garnishing your wages and putting your tax return on hold.

If you continue to circumvent payments or the court feels that you aren't making good faith efforts to obtain a job so that you can make payments, you may then be found in contempt of court which could carry possible jail time.

To learn more about what happens if you don't pay child support, contact a family law attorney, such as Karen Robins Carnegie PLC, today.