Any time a parent with minor children gets divorced, there is likely to be a child support order as a result. Often, the parent who makes the most money and who does not have full physical custody of the child is ordered to pay child support. This form of support can begin as early as the separation period and ends either when the child turns 18 or later, if they attend college. Unfortunately, some parents fail to live up to the obligation, and matters can turn serious. Read on to find out what happens when parents get behind on their child support obligation.
Enforcement Is a Priority
Family law advocates and lawmakers have done a pretty good job of making and enforcing laws that protect the most innocent victims of divorce from suffering the financial consequences. For example, no matter where the responsible parent goes in the United States, enforcement exists. If the parent is thought to have moved just to hide from child support enforcement, that is now a crime. Also, when parents fail to honor the obligation, strict penalties can follow. Most have heard about child support "round-ups" where people are arrested for not paying child support. Arrests and jail time are possible, but authorities recognize that a jailed parent may not ever be able to pay what they owe. Besides jail time, other consequences are meant to keep parents on their toes about paying the support on time. Once a parent falls behind, the below actions may occur.
- Liens – When a business or government entity places a lien on a property, it essentially freezes it. In the case of child support, a lien can be placed on the parent's home or other real estate holdings. It cannot be sold or used as collateral until the obligation is brought up to date. A related measure is a levy. If the parent has an investment account, a savings account, or something similar, a levy freezes that account temporarily.
- Garnishment – If the parent is employed, wage garnishment allows funds to be removed from the pay of the parent before the check is provided. As a side note, more and more states are requiring child support payers to have the support amount automatically deducted from their bank accounts on a regular basis.
- Income Tax Refunds – When a parent is due a refund from Uncle Sam, they might find it rerouted to the child enforcement agency instead.
If you are behind on payments, don't ignore it. You might be able to work out a payment plan with the enforcement agency and avoid the above problems. Speak to a divorce lawyer if you want to make changes in the plan and have a good reason for doing so.