Last Updated on August 11, 2023 @ 8:30 am
Reports Show Billions in Child Support Goes Unpaid
The United States Census Bureau reports on information related to past-due child support payments that may be owed by individuals. The Census Bureau reports revealed startling statistics revolving around the payment (specifically the non-payment) of child support. This report focused mainly on child support that is supposed to be paid from non-custodial parents and included both monetary and non-cash assistance. The report revealed that more than $14 billion in child support payments were unpaid to primary custodial parents.
Many Parents Are Not Receiving Child Support
The $14 billion amount that is owed means that one out of every three dollars owed in child support was not being paid by non-custodial parents. This figure translates to less than one half of the child support eligible parents receiving the child support they are owed based on their court ordered arrangement, with about one quarter of those parents not receiving any of the support they were promised to receive. While child support is most often awarded during a paternity action or child custody case, the Census Bureau’s report confirmed that these orders for child support are all but “hollow” since the ordered payments are not being made.
Consistently paying under, late, or non-payment of child support often has the largest impact on lower-income child support recipients – although these parents have the option to seek government assistance in collecting the child support they are owed, reports show that less than 25 percent of those parents who are owed support payments work with the government’s enforcement resources. Experts believe this lack of payment and lack of seeking enforcement shows that receiving parents have “given up” on collecting the child support owed to them.
In addition to giving up on owed collecting payments, studies have shown fewer parents are engaging the government’s enforcement resources because they come up with their own, alternative agreement with the non-custodial parent outside of the court room. Another report also showed that parents who are younger or less educated were less likely to collect all of the child support they were owed from the non-custodial parent.
Research has also shown that the custody arrangement for the children parents share does have an impact on how or when child support is paid. In situations where the parents share joint custody, more than half of receiving parents have reported receiving child support payments in full. However, in custody situations where the children have no contact with the non-custodial parent, it has been shown that it is unlikely the receiving parent receives owed child support.
Enforcement of Past Due Child Support
Parents have many options available to them when it comes to enforcing a child support order. One of the most common, is the filing of a motion to hold a parent in contempt of court. This is commonly known as a “Petition for Rule to Show Cause” or a “Petition for Adjudication of Indirect Civil Contempt.” When a motion for contempt is filed, the parent filing the motion needs to show a few basic, but necessary, things to the court to prevail:
- A Court order was entered for child support;
- Child support is not being paid or is being underpaid consistently;
- The person owing support is willfully violating the Court’s order;
- That the refusal to pay and follow the Court’s order impairs the other parents rights; and
- There is no justifiable reason for the refusal to make the child support payment.
When this is shown to the court, the burden of proof shifts to the non-paying parent to explain and give a reason, if they can, why they should not be held in contempt of court for their refusal to follow the Court’s order. Ordinarily, the non-paying parent does not have a good enough reason to avoid being held in contempt. If he or she lost their job, that parent might think that is enough reason to avoid contempt. In some instances, it might be. But ordinarily, it is on the non-paying parent to ask the court to modify child support because of a lost job and not let time go by waiting for the other parent to demand that the child support payments be made. Remember, a child support order is ALWAYS temporary – it can be changed when a substantial change in circumstances arises – such as a lost job – or even a significant change in child-related expenses (such as a special needs child, school tuition, etc.).
Penalties for Contempt of Court
There are many penalties hat exist should a parent be held in contempt of court for their refusal to pay child support. Depending on the state, these penalties might include some or any of the following:
- Loss of drivers license (suspension of driving privilege’s until a lump sum and/or current payments are made over a period of time);
- Loss of a professional license (a suspension of a nursing license, teaching license, building contractor, electrician, truck driver/CDL);
- Payment of attorneys fees that the parent owed child support paid to hire a lawyer to enforce the Court order; or
- Imprisonment until payment is made.
What Should a Non-Paying Parent Do?
When a parent begins to fall behind on child support payments, be it because of a job loss or some extraordinary bill that interferes with payment being made, the non-paying parent must immediately file a motion with the court to modify his/her child support. Normally, a child support attorney should be used to make sure the child support modification court filing is properly filed and served on the other parent, but no matter what, the parent that owes support needs to move quickly. This should be done as soon as possible so that past-due support amounts will either not continue to add up, or they will be lowered so they are at a manageable temporary amount.
Non-payment of child support does not need to end up with a parent being held in contempt or the other parent being left high and dry without support for his/her child if the parents work together and talk about a temporary solution and handle things within the court in an amicable manner. Communication and acting quickly is key, and the only way to ensure that your case doesn’t end up with a contempt filing and contributing to the $14 billion owed nationwide.