What Happens if I Don’t Pay My Child Support?

It never fails: your child support is past due and it is creating problems between you and your child’s mother or father. The phone calls, texts, emails, and unpleasant conversations about money when you pick up your child for visitation are endless.

Out of the many parents who are ordered to pay child support, about 30% fail to pay at all, and only 43.5% of parents who receive child support, receive the full amount due. When you consider that across the United States, over $33 billion in child support is due annually, a lot of children are being left without adequate support to cover expenses ranging from daycare to health insurance, and even food.

Although custodial parents have often threatened to withhold children from the other parent if child support is not paid, they cannot do this. Child support and child custody are independent of each other, and if your co-parent refused to grant you your allotted parenting time with your child, he or she can be held in contempt.

There are also serious consequences, however, for parents who fail to pay child support, even when you believe you may have a legitimate justification for not doing so. No matter your reason, unless you go back to court to obtain a modification of your child support, you can land yourself in pretty hot water if you withhold payment.

The least of your problems may begin with being fined by the court, to include payment of attorneys’ fees for the custodial parent having to bring the contempt action in the first place. Depending upon just how far in arrears you are with your support obligation, being held in contempt of court may involve you being sentenced to some jail time.

Further actions that may be taken by the Child Support Enforcement Agency are:

  • Garnishing your wages, unemployment benefits or any other source of income
  • Confiscating your federal and state tax refunds
  • Reporting you to a new employer, and the credit bureaus
  • Confiscating Maryland lottery winnings
  • Garnishing any of your financial accounts
  • Suspending or revoking your professional/recreational licenses, and driver’s license
  • Issuing a lien on real estate or personal property, and seize the assets
  • Refusing applications for renewal or issuance of a passport
  • Referring cases for federal prosecution if you move out of state to avoid paying child support

How to prove your support payments were made

Nobody wants to risk being dragged back into court for contempt for failure to pay child support. It’s embarrassing, time consuming, and costs you more. You need a fool-proof way to avoid this from occurring.

A non-custodial parent can always opt to pay through the Child Support Enforcement Office online, which may require payment of a nominal fee for use of the service. You may also be able to voluntarily request that your employer garish your wages for the purpose of paying your child support. If you want to take the easy route, you could also simply set up your online banking for auto pay to the custodial parent. Each of these options gives you proof of payment in the event a dispute arises.

Given that “there’s an app for that” for virtually everything these days, you might also suggest to the custodial parent – assuming you’re on good enough terms – to try using a service such as SupportPay. This, and other apps out there, allow you to track child-related expenses and payments so that both parents are on the same page and can help eliminate conflicts over what your child support is going towards.

Your child deserves love and support from both parents. If you need financial assistance from your child’s mother or father, you need the advice that will help you obtain the support your child needs. The Rockville family law attorneys at McCabe Russell, P.A. understand that raising a child on one income can be difficult, and we are here to help. To reserve a consultation, please call 443-812-1435, or reach out to us through our contact page. We maintain additional offices in Columbia, Fulton, and Bethesda.