Child Support and parents

Child Support: What to Do If You Can’t Pay

When parents decide to separate or divorce, both parents are financially responsible for a child through child support payments. These child support payments are based on many factors, including the child’s expenses and primary parent’s income.

What to Do If You Can’t Pay Child Support

Once child support payments are set in place, it is essential to keep current on payments and pay in full. Understandably, things may happen that cause the parent to fall behind or become unable to pay child support. If you fall behind or are unable to pay in full, here are some steps you can take to get back on track or help lessen the penalties of failing to pay child support.

  • Talk to Other Parent: While any conversations will not be binding in a court of law, the other parent can agree to lower or skip payments. To become legal, however, this agreement must be approved by a judge. Situations like job loss, change in income, or medical concerns don’t have to be discussed in great detail but can be a reason for payment delinquency. 
  • Reach Out to the Child Enforcement Agency: The next step after talking to the other parent is to reach out to your state’s child enforcement agency. The child enforcement agency is a federally mandated agency that can help in modifying child support payments.  You will need to fill out documents discussing your situation and what happened to make the payment changes. Only the child enforcement agency can offer a lower payment or a new payment schedule.

Other Options

  • Reduce Your Expenses: If you cannot lower your payments with an agreement or through child enforcement, reducing your expenses is the next step. Begin by making a list of your income, expenses, and what you spend in a week or month. Creating a budget this way can help you analyze how you spend every dollar, whether on a bill or leisure, so you can reevaluate where the funds are going and adjust accordingly.
  • Get Legal Representation: If you find that you still need help, there are options for legal assistance. While hiring a lawyer may not be within your budget, you may need legal counsel in the end. Failure to pay child supports results in contempt of court. And if you cannot afford a lawyer, then according to law, judges must appoint representation if requested. 

To prepare for your lawyer, gather bank statements, pay stubs, evidence of other financial responsibilities, medical paperwork if needed, and any other paperwork that may affect the case. Being prepared will help you get the representation you need.

Penalties of Failure to Pay Child Support

The severity of failure to pay child support can vary depending on the amount and time since payment has lapsed. Loss of income through wage garnishment, including unemployment benefits, is the first penalty. A loss of license or inability to renew a license is another penalty for failure to pay. Other disadvantages include loss of government benefits, the lien of property, and jail time. It is crucial to be proactive in child support payments before you become delinquent and face contempt of court. 

Failure to pay child support becomes a federal felony after $5,000 in missed payments. Or one year of lack of payment. The Law Offices of Paul Bowen can provide legal representation if you have fallen behind in child support payments or face contempt of court. Contact the Law Office of Paul Bowen for more information.