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What happens if parents fail to pay child support?

A critical part of raising a child is to support them and their needs, both emotionally and financially. Even if a child's parents are not married, the responsibility to financially support the child often remains.

Virginia family courts generally order the non-custodial parent to pay child support whether or not the parents were ever married, because it is in the child’s best interests.

But what happens if the parent ordered to pay child support does not pay?

Failing to pay child support could have serious ramifications

If a parent does not pay child support, the receiving spouse, family courts or Virginia’s Division of Child Support Enforcement will first try to recover the missed payments. This could lead the paying parent to face significant financial consequences since they will collect back support payments by:

  • Establishing wage garnishments;
  • Seizing property, including bank accounts;
  • Garnishing tax refunds or other forms of compensation;
  • Placing liens on property or real estate; and
  • Reporting the parent’s deviance to credit bureaus.

There could be other administrative penalties for failing to pay child support as well, including:

  • A suspended driver’s license and driving privileges;
  • A suspended occupational license; and
  • A denied passport.

Usually, the only way to recover these licenses or resolve these financial penalties is to pay the child support debt.

There might even be criminal consequences

In extreme cases, failing to pay child support might also result in criminal consequences. This is not too common, but non-paying parents might have to go to court if:

  • The above penalties do not work to recover the child support payments;
  • The parent has not made payments for more than 90 days; or
  • The paying spouse had the resources and ability to pay child support but did not. Then they will be held in contempt of court.

If the non-paying parent goes to court, they could be charged with a misdemeanor. On top of that, they might have to:

  • Pay a $500 fine in addition to the back payments; or
  • Serve up to one year in prison.

These penalties might seem frightening, but they are fairly easy to avoid. The family law attorneys at Bowen Ten Cardani, PC, can help parents create a child support agreement that meets both the child’s and receiving parent’s needs, as well as the paying parent’s abilities.

If parents find it difficult to make child support payments, they must speak with an attorney to modify their child support agreement. That way, they can avoid these potential consequences altogether.

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