If you owe child support, and you’re not making payments on time or in the right amount, the court can take serious action against you.
Typically, a judge weighs income, age and earning capacity in determining the amount of support to award. However, if you’ve experienced a significant change in those circumstances, it’s important to let the court know as soon as possible about your situation.
If you have a child support order and you’re struggling to keep up with your payments, it’s essential that you reach out for help sooner rather than later. Notifying the court of your financial difficulties can make a significant difference in how the court approaches modifying your support order.
In addition, missing a child support payment can have serious consequences. A non-custodial parent who is found in contempt of court can be arrested and sent to jail.
Under federal law, not paying court-ordered child support is a crime. It is a misdemeanor for a parent to miss a payment of $5,000 or less, but it becomes a felony when the payments are overdue for two years or more.
Not paying child support can also have negative effects on your credit, including a black mark on your record with the national credit bureaus. It can also affect your licenses, which can be revoked or suspended until you pay the owed child support.
Contempt of Court
When a party doesn’t follow a court order related to child support, custody, visitation or other terms, they may be held in contempt of court. A judge can impose fines and jail time for this type of behavior.
However, inadvertent violations of a court order are often easily resolved without going to court. Generally, when a party violates a court order they should contact their lawyer to explain what happened.
The lawyer can then discuss with you what your options are and help you to determine what the best course of action is. If you do decide to go to court, it’s a good idea to notify the other party of your intent before filing for contempt.
This will show the court that you are truly trying to coerce compliance with the order and not just trying to get your ex to pay you back. You can also include a clause in your letter that specifies how they can remedy the situation before you file for contempt.
Suspension of License
If you don’t pay child support, the court can suspend or revoke your driver’s license and other professional or recreational licenses. It can also garnish your paycheck and take it as payment for the support you owe.
Losing a driver’s license or other professional or recreational license can be frustrating. But for many obligors, it’s a motivating factor to pay up.
In some cases, you can ask for a hardship permit to drive to work or run your errands during your suspension period. However, the rules and eligibility requirements vary from state to state.
Your license can be suspended for a number of reasons, including failing to file proof of financial responsibility, too many traffic violations, or being caught driving under the influence. Some states allow you to reinstate your license after paying a termination fee and meeting certain conditions.
Seizure of Property
If you’re behind on your child support payments, it can impact everything from your bank accounts and safe deposit box contents to your employer’s payroll and any insurance claims you have. You could even lose your driver’s license.
In Utah, law enforcement agencies use a process called civil asset forfeiture to take property that doesn’t belong to the owner. It allows the government to seize cash and other property without ever charging someone with a crime, but it often requires that you fight the government in civil court.
In a 2017 report, the Utah Fraternal Order of Police said the majority of the 334 cases that were reported involved cash or property ranging from $500 to $157,000. Nearly all of the seizures were during investigations of alleged drug crimes.