If you and your spouse are divorcing and have minor children, child support will likely be part of your marital settlement agreement. The courts have strong opinions on ensuring the well-being of children in divorce settlements-- so much so that the penalties for failing to pay child support can be severe. No matter whether you are the party ordered to pay the child support nor not, it's important to understand how child support is enforced.
1. If you are ordered to pay child support and fail to do so, you face the following possible penalties:
- Wage garnishment
- Contempt of court charges
- Liens on property
- Arrest and jail time
- Withholding of tax refunds
- Expulsion from government aid programs
- Revocation of driver's license
2. Moving to a different state to avoid paying support is a federal crime. Moreover, every state is empowered to enforce child support rulings, no matter what state the divorce took place in.
3. The military legal system has its own methods for enforcing child support, with penalties including dishonorable discharge.
4. If you are unable to pay as ordered, you cannot simply bury your head in the sand and ignore the issue. Contact the local enforcement office, explain your circumstances and try to work out a payment plan to help you get caught up.
5. If your financial circumstances have changed dramatically, contact your divorce attorney and request a court hearing. You may be able to have the support order amended if you have lost your job, got a new job with a lower income, have had medical issues, etc. Keep in mind that the courts are very reluctant to make changes, but you should definitely make the attempt because the alternatives can be harsh.
6. For the parent who is not responsible for paying child support, keep in mind that child support and visitation are two separate issues. You cannot keep your ex-spouse from participating in their legally ordered visitation simply because they are behind on support payments. In addition, the courts do not look kindly on a parent who is not abiding by the visitation schedule. If you have an issue with the visitation provisions, contact your divorce attorney to find out how you can amend the order.
Throughout the divorce proceedings you would do well to mirror the court's attitude toward children and place their needs first. Divorce is not just an adult issue, so discuss with your attorney, like those at Tracy McMurtrie Luck & Associates, the best way to create agreements that are beneficial for everyone.