Neglecting to pay child support results in far more than just a slap on the wrist. It is a serious offense with serious consequences.
What is child support?
In order to understand the consequences of falling behind on child support payments, it is beneficial to first understand what child support is and how courts determine it. Courts by definition usually determine child support that compensates one parent accordingly so that he or she can afford to raise, shelter, and support a child or children. The parent with the higher income usually makes the payments.
In Arkansas, the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) works with parents or guardians to help them establish and receive child support. The OCSE offers two distinct services : enforcement services and payment processing services. The former, enforcement services, helps locate unpaid child support, establish paternity, or establish a court order for child support. The latter, payment processing services, are for privately handled cases.
How do courts determine child support?
Although the question about child support determination is not as common as the question about payment amount, it is still one worth answering. Your income and your ex-partner’s income primarily determine child support obligations.
In Arkansas, income involves everything from wages, bonuses, commissions, interest, and worker’s compensation. Courts deduct federal and state income taxes, social security and Medicare, medical insurance for dependents, and court-ordered support payments for other dependents before producing a final payment amount to the partner in question.
Consequences of falling behind on child support payments
Sometimes parties do not pay child support consistently or on time. Moreover, there are severe consequences for the party that does not pay child support. The court, for example, can hold the guilty party in contempt. This means that the parent in question has blatantly disobeyed a court order.
Usually, the parent in contempt must pay all past-due child support payments in full. If the party does not pay willingly, then a judge can issue a garnishment that takes money directly from the parent’s bank account. The judge can also order a lien against property like a home or car which then results in an order to sell personal property to pay the child support. Additionally, the judge can order that the guilty party pay the custodial parent’s legal fees.
In Arkansas, if you neglect to pay child support for more than three months, then a judge can suspend your driver’s license and plates. If you owe more than $2,500 in child support, then a judge can also revoke your passport. Furthermore, if you fall $10,000 or more behind in payments for longer than one year, then the court can charge you with a misdemeanor, a $1,000 fine, and jail for up to one year. If you try to flee Arkansas to avoid your child support payments, then you will be charged with a felony, issued a $10,000 fine, and could face up to six years in prison.
Jail time for neglecting to pay child support is only a potential punishment and also depends on the jurisdiction. The police will not arrest you for missing one or two payments. If you are unable to pay the amount the court ordered you to pay, then it is possible to file a motion requesting the court to consider modifying child support payments.
Modifying child support payments
Under Arkansas law, courts permit child support modification when the payor’s income increases or decreases by over 20% (or over $100 per month). The court refers to this change as a “ material change in circumstances .”
The court also allows modifications if the payor’s ability to pay the child’s or children’s health insurance changes. If you are the payor in question, then you will have to provide the custodial parent with a change of income. It also helps to know that the change in child support payments does not happen overnight and can take several months to establish in court. If you have an emergent need (like a severe decrease in income), then you can ask for an emergency hearing.
Moreover, if you are the custodial parent, then there are steps you can take when it comes to modifying child support payments. If you would like to petition for an increase in payments , then you must prove that the non-custodial parent has increased their income. Alternatively, if you know the non-custodial parent has seen a decrease in their income, then you can petition the court for a payment decrease.
Even if your relationship with your ex-partner is amicable, you should still go through the courts to receive an official court order that addresses the child support payments modifications. Receiving an official court order provides security and is in the best interest of the child or children involved.
Navigating child support can be tricky. If you have any questions about modifying child support or about the consequences associated with neglecting to pay child support, then contact Mann & Kemp at 877-752-7418 to schedule a family law consultation.