What can happen if I fall behind in child support payments?

Both parents have a legal and moral obligation to provide for their child’s needs (food, clothing, shelter medical needs and education among others) until they become adults. If the parents are living together, these needs usually account for the household expenditure.

This obligation does not stop should the relationship between the parents end. When parents divorce or separate, the family court will direct the non-custodial parent to make payment to the custodial parent to cater to the child’s needs. This is known as child support payment. But what happens if you cannot keep up with your child support obligation?

Failing to pay child support has consequences

A child support order is binding. Non-payment of child support can result in the following repercussions:

  • Depending on the circumstances of your case, a criminal or civil warrant of arrest will be issued against you
  • You will be held in contempt of court, which can lead to a fine or jail time
  • Your salary, unemployment benefits and workers’ compensation can be garnished
  • A lien could be placed on your property
  • Your tax refunds will be intercepted
  • Your driver’s license and professional licenses can be suspended
  • Your passport application or renewal may be denied

So what can you do if you can no longer pay child support?

Life’s circumstances are bound to change. If you can no longer afford your child support obligation, you need to explore your legal options.

Ideally, the family court will be open to the idea of modifying the existing child custody order. However, your reasons for petitioning for child support modification must be reasonable. Some valid reasons for child support modification may include:

  • Job loss, cut hours or a demotion and a cut in your pay
  • Health problems like a disabling condition that leaves you unable to work
  • Alteration of the parenting schedule
  • Incarceration
  • Changes to the child’s needs

If you find yourself unable to comply with a child support order, you need to explore your options and take proactive steps before becoming delinquent.