Parents must meet their child support obligations. Those who do not pay, pay less than required or pay sporadically may be subject to contempt proceedings, fines and even jail time. If you have questions about enforcing a child support order or need help defending a contempt action, contact Stewart Law Group in Phoenix, Arizona. An experienced family law attorney can review your situation and explain your rights.
Contempt proceedings are one of the most common actions taken against parents who fail to pay child support. During contempt proceedings, the payor parent is charged with failing to comply with a court order. These proceedings can be civil or criminal. In civil proceedings, the parent can be ordered to serve an indefinite period in jail until he or she pays the support owed. Upon paying the back support, the parent is released from jail. In criminal contempt proceedings, the parent is sentenced to a set amount of time in jail as punishment for failing to comply with the order. The parent cannot pay the back support to shorten his or her jail sentence.
The key to holding a parent in contempt of a child support order is finding that the parent has the ability to pay child support but willfully failed to do so. Parents who do not have the ability to pay the support may have a successful defense to a contempt proceeding if they can prove they genuinely could not pay.
Parents who owe back support may be subject to wage garnishment. The court can order an employer to withhold a certain percentage out of an employee’s paycheck each pay period to meet his or her child support obligations. Additionally, under federal law, employers must report the names of new employees to the state’s new hire directory, which is used to help locate parents who are delinquent in child support payments. There is also a national registry which can be used to help locate parents who move out of state to seek employment. Tax refunds and lottery winnings also can be subject to garnishment.
State governments and the federal government have taken action to punish those who cross state lines in hopes of escaping their support obligations. States are required to give full faith and credit to valid final court judgments issued in other states including child support orders. Thus, parents cannot seek out a new jurisdiction to gain a more favorable child support award. Under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), the court who issued the child support order retains continuing exclusive jurisdiction this means that if the parents seek to make changes to the original order or seek to have it enforced, they must petition the court that originally issued the order. UIFSA provides state courts with long-arm jurisdiction in case one parent relocates to another jurisdiction.
In an effort to reduce welfare costs, the federal government has passed legislation to criminalize willful failures to pay child support. Under the Child Support Recovery Act and the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act, parents who fail to pay child support can face federal penalties, including fines and incarceration.