Parent Not Paying Child Support: Civil Contempt Court Action

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It is an unfortunate reality that divorce can be a contentious process between parties with child(ren) becoming collateral victims. This is often the case when one parent refuses to honor his or her support obligation to the child. Sometimes the court has to be brought in to enforce a child support order. A parent not paying child support is seen as contempt of the court. In this case, the custodial parent can request a writ of execution and the defaulting non-custodial parent can be jailed for his or her contempt.

Child Support Is Enforceable by the Court 

A child support order is usually integrated with a divorce decree and is as equally enforceable as any other provision or decree. Therefore, a parent not paid the requisite child support has the right to seek enforcement of the order. The parent may seek wage garnishment or assignment, a contempt of court decree as well as the seizure of the defaulting parent's property through a writ of execution. If the non-paying parent has assets including any real property, personal property, stock and bank accounts, these may be seized upon order by the court.

Bringing a Civil Contempt of Court Action

Not paying child support is seen as contempt of the court. Where a parent willfully disobeys a legal child support order, the court may order that the defaulting parent be jailed for contempt of court. To have this done, the custodial parent may get the proper forms from the court clerk to bring a civil contempt action. Upon filing of the form(s), the defaulting parent should be process served with notice that he or she must appear at a scheduled hearing to present a defense. If the defaulting parent does not appear after being properly served, the hearing court may then order that a bench warrant be issued for the arrest of the non-compliant parent. 

The court will then hear the evidence and if it is shown beyond a reasonable doubt that the non-compliant parent willfully failed to pay per a legal child support order, the court can then order that the non-compliant parent be jailed. However, if the non-compliant parent can make a showing that he or she is unable to pay, the court may find the defaulting parent not to be in contempt of court. This finding does not discharge the non-compliant parent's obligation for the outstanding debt.

If the parent is ordered to jail, the sentence may be indeterminate and only terminated when the parent makes proper payment.

Talk with an Attorney

If you are a parent who has stopped paying child support, the custodial parent has the legal right to bring a writ of execution against you to force payment through wage garnishment/assignment or through seizure of property. Additionally, a court may find you in civil contempt and can order that you be jailed. Talk with an attorney immediately to discuss your case and prevent these actions against you.

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