A court orders the remittance of child support, making this a binding directive that you must follow. Although situations can arise that make it difficult to make ends meet financially, it's never advisable to fall behind with these payments. Before you make a decision that could have serious consequences, learn the risks you face.
Possible Court Actions
The court could take action against you if you cease regular payments. One possible outcome could be a contempt of court filing. If this happens, a court date will be scheduled, and you will need to appear before a judge to address the late payments. Failure to appear could result in a warrant for your arrest. During your appearance, you may need to demonstrate to the court that your finances have not allowed you to make your payments. This could require proof of income and employment or unemployment dates.
The court could also proceed with a criminal charge of nonsupport. The custodial parent who should be receiving the funds could file a complaint that sets this process in motion. If this happens, you could face fines and even time in jail for not making your child support payments. These cases are typically tried by the district attorney of your county.
Child Support Lien
A lien of this type places a hold on any property you own, including cars or land. No court proceeding is necessary to complete this process, because it typically occurs administratively. Many states have specific dollar amounts in place to enact liens when the past-due amount reaches this point. For example, if your state has a past-due limit of $500, a lien would be placed on your car or your house when your past-due payments reach this dollar amount.
You will receive a notice of the lien in the mail telling you the amount and the effective date. The lien will remain in place until you bring your payments back to current. Once you satisfy the past-due amount, you will need to get a release document to cancel the hold on your property. Be aware that these holds are reported to the major credit bureaus. Consequently, your credit can be negatively affected by your lack of remittance, which means you might not be able to secure financing if you request a loan.
Garnishment of Wages
A court could order the garnishment of wages or other financial benefits to which you are entitled. This could include your paycheck, a tax refund, pensions, insurance settlements, and lottery winnings. If you have a bank account balance, mutual funds, or IRAs with a balance above a specific amount, a court could order seizure to satisfy the past-due amount.
Loss of Driving Privileges
Many states enforce an administrative loss of driving privileges for people who do not make timely child support payments. If this happens, you will not be able to renew your driver's license, and you could have your current license revoked so that you cannot drive lawfully in your state, both occupationally and personally.
Always call your local child support agency if financial problems prevent you from making payments. It's likely that you will be able to work out a plan to avoid court proceedings and liens.