Consequences to Consider for Failure to Pay Child Support

If you are experiencing financial hardship and having difficulty complying with a court order requiring you to pay child support, you might want to think twice before you become delinquent in your obligation and accumulate child support arrearages. Failure to pay court-ordered child support can have serious and long-term legal, financial, and personal consequences.

A person to whom child support is owed is deemed a creditor of the child support “obligor” (the person obligated to pay child support under a court order). There is no timeframe in which child support arrears will be forgiven. Child support debt is always subject to collection. It has no expiration date and cannot be discharged in bankruptcy proceedings.

There are many remedies available to compel an obligor’s compliance with a child support order. Legal proceedings may be initiated to enforce a child support obligation and collect past-due child support that has accrued. Failure to comply with court ordered child support may result in a warrant being issued for the obligor’s arrest. If the obligor is found in contempt of the court order, the obligor may be fined and/or sentenced to jail time as well as ordered to pay the attorneys fees of the parent or guardian moving to enforce the child support obligation.

Other actions can be taken by state and federal governments to enforce payment of child support and collect child support arrearages, including wage withholding, garnishment of income tax refunds, and property liens. If a district court judge finds that a child support obligor is willfully delinquent in failing to pay child support in an amount equal to at least one month’s child support obligation, the judge may revoke certain state licensing privileges, including the obligor’s driver’s license; hunting, fishing, and trapping licenses; and occupational, professional, and business licenses. However, many judges are reluctant to revoke driver’s license or other licenses that might impede a child support obligor’s ability to obtain or maintain gainful employment.

A delinquent child support obligor who relocates to another state with the intent to avoid paying child support that has either been past due for more than 1 year or exceeds $5,000 could potentially be subject to federal charges under the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act. Additionally, a child support debtor may be denied issuance of a passport or have his/her bank accounts frozen.

In North Carolina, child custody and child support are two very separate matters. Being denied visitation with your child does not relieve you of your responsibility to pay child support. If you believe that a substantial change of circumstances has occurred that might support a reduction of your child support obligation, you should consult with a family law attorney who can provide you with advice based on your unique situation. For more information on modification of child support, see our blog article entitled “Modification of Child Support in North Carolina.”

This article is for information purposes only and is not to be considered or substituted as legal advice. The information in this article is based on North Carolina state laws in effect at the time of posting.

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