A local man made the news recently when he was picked up on a warrant due to outstanding child support owed of over $90,000.00!
Child support is an obligation that a parent has to his or her child to provide for that child’s needs- food, clothing, shelter. Child support Orders can be issued either from the Family Court, or the Supreme Court in a matrimonial/divorce case. Paying child support is not only a moral responsibility to your children, but also a significant legal one. If child support is not paid, then either a violation or contempt of court proceeding can be brought. The proceeding is generally brought in the court that originated the Order, although Family Court has jurisdiction of both Family and Supreme Court support cases.
There are two types of violations- willful and non-willful. A willful violation means you had the ability to meet your obligations, but didn’t. A non-willful means you did not have the ability, but still had the obligation. Even if the violation is non willful, it still has serious ramifications.
The person alleged to be in violation of the support Order will be served with certain legal papers, and s/he has a right to appear and defend him/herself at a trial.
If a non-willful violation is found, the court has the option to do any or all of the following:
- Enter a Money Judgment
- Make an Income Deduction Order
- Require an undertaking
- Order a Sequestration
- Suspend the payer’s driving privileges
- Suspend the payer’s state professional or business license (i.e. doctor, lawyer, etc.)
- Suspend a recreational license (i.e. hunting, fishing, etc.)
- If the persons whom the payer has failed to support are on public assistance, the payer can be required to participate in “work activities”
- Participate in job training, employment counseling, or other programs designed to lead to employment
If a willful violation is found, in addition to what is listed above, a court can:
- Order counsel fees to the attorney for the recipient
- Require the payer to participate in a rehabilitative program
- Place the payer on probation
And most significantly:
COMMIT THE PAYER TO JAIL FOR A TERM UP TO SIX (6) MONTHS!
If you are the payer parent and cannot make payment due to loss of employment, illness, etc., you should consult an attorney and petition the court to modify your obligation. Simply ignoring it does not make it go away. The longer you wait the more money you owe.
Keep in mind that a “handshake” agreement with the other parent is not binding, even if it lasts for years. You must modify the Order or you are responsible for it. You don’t want to come home one day to find legal paperwork that says you owe thousands of dollars.
It is important to differentiate between ability to pay, and inability. With inability, there are steps you can take to adjust your support. With ability, the ultimate remedy may be the inside of a jail cell.