What are the Consequences of Not Paying Child Support?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 18 February 2020
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When a person fails to make court-ordered child support payments, there are penalties he may face. The penalties may depend on the jurisdiction in which the payments are ordered, but often include wage garnishment and license suspension. A person may also lose the right to obtain a passport as a penalty for failure to make child support payments. Some jurisdictions will even divert tax refunds to the parent who is owed child support money. In cases in which child support payments are seriously past due and involve large amounts of money, a person may even spend time in prison as a consequence of not paying child support.

One of the consequences of not paying child support is wage garnishment. If a person fails to make court-ordered child support payments, a judge may order the garnishment of his paycheck. When this occurs, money for child support is removed from the party’s paycheck before he receives it. It is usually sent to a child support agency’s processing department before it is forwarded on to the receiving party. Wage garnishment allows child support agencies to ensure payments are made, even if the non-custodial parent is reluctant to fulfill his obligations.


Sometimes driver’s license suspension is also used as a consequence of not paying child support. While this measure doesn't guarantee that the paying parent will catch up on child support payments, it may interfere enough with his lifestyle that he feels compelled to pay. In some jurisdictions, professional licenses can be suspended in addition to driver’s licenses.

In some places, a person may have his right to secure a passport suspended for not paying child support. This may serve two purposes. First, it may prove to be an annoyance and compel the paying parent to catch up on his child support payments. Second, it may help to prevent a person from leaving the country in order to avoid child support enforcement.

Tax refund interception and property liens may also be used when a party fails to make child support payments. All or some of a payer's tax refund may be diverted to the receiving parent. Some jurisdictions also allow child support agencies to place liens on the paying parent’s property. For example, a lien may be placed on the payer’s home as a result of his failure to pay child support.

After a person has been given many chances to pay child support but failed to do so, a judge may order the person to spend time in jail. This penalty is often reserved for cases in which the parent owes a good deal of money yet refuses to pay it. It may also be used when a parent willfully defies a court order or appears defiant in court.


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Post 3

I think that wage garnishment is a great idea. In fact, I think this should be done from the very beginning, even before a parent stops paying child support. I think it would make things a lot easier and completely remove the process of reporting a parent who does not pay.

The child support system seems to run on trust. When a court orders that a parent pay child support, it is assumed that the parent will follow these orders. And I'm sure that most people do. But there are also a considerable number of parents who do not make the payments or who report false information to lower and stop their payments. The parent with the custody has

to then file a case about it and the court or agency has to take action such as wage garnishment.

But all of this takes some time. If the child support agency automatically put in place wage garnishment for each child support case, won't that make life a lot easier for everyone?

Post 2

@SaraGen-- If the parent does not apply to the child support agency for a modification of child support payments, then yes.

A parent in financial trouble should never have to be in this situation. If someone is unable to make child support payments due to losing his or her job or making a very low income, an application can be submitted to change the payments. The child support agency will look into the matter and will adjust the payment accordingly. So the parent will not have to face consequences like wage garnishment or license suspension.

If the parent however does not submit an application and inform the agency of his or her financial situation and simply does not make the payments, then of course, there will be consequences.

Post 1

What if a parent is unable to pay child support because of financial trouble? Will he or she still face these consequences?

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