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What Happens to a Parent if She/He Has Not Been Paying Child Support?

In a perfect world, the parent who is ordered to pay child support by the courts would do so and everything would run smoothly, but this is not a perfect world and often it is the case that the non-custodial parent stops paying child support or refuses to pay outright.

Some non-custodial parents believe that their visitation rights are directly connected to child support payments. Paying child support is a separate part of the agreement on visitation rights.

As of the Child Support Enforcement Act of 1984, state attorneys or district attorneys of each and every state must make themselves available to help custodial parents collect the child support they are owed by their ex spouses. This often involves the district attorney

  • Getting the story from the custodial parent and then serving papers to the non-custodial parent that he or she must set up a meeting with the D.A. to arrange a schedule for payment.
  • If the person refuses to set up a meeting or pay right away then the District Attorney must make it known that the person could be risking jail time.

If the non-custodial parent has relocated out of the state he or she is still obligated to pay. If payments stop because the person moves, either the custodial parent, the district attorney, or both can use legal means in order to find the person’s new place of residence and from there find a way to get the person to pay what they owe for back child support. Ex spouses who have defaulted in paying child support can also be found by way of a variety of federal and state parent locator services.

Under federal laws, a parent who refuses to pay child support can

  • Forfeit their tax refunds, which will go to the custodial parent to replace child support money that is not up to date.
  • The courts have other methods of seeking child support payments and these include wage attachments (also known as garnishing an individual’s wages)
  • The seizure of property, and suspending the business license of a parent who has defaulted on payments.
  • Revoke the ex spouse’s driver’s license until he or she pays in full or arranges a payment schedule and shows that he or she is willing to honor it.
If the custodial and non-custodial parents reside in different states then the “Revised Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act” (RURESA) can be put into play. Under this act, the court in the state where the custodial parent resides will get in touch with the court in the state where the non-custodial parent lives and figure out a way to make the person pay. This is a procedure that does not cost anything but unfortunately it often does not live up to its expectations as courts classify it as low priority. As well it tends to be a complex process and courts are so burdened with more pressing issues that it often falls by the wayside.


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