When parents don’t pay child support

Last week in the Legal Corner, we began covering the child support process and child support services. This week, we will discuss some of the consequences for not paying court-ordered child support, including the options the court has to enforce the required payments.

In compliance with federal regulations, North Carolina has established certain rules and regulations to assist the courts with enforcing child support orders. Once a child support order has been established and placed on the record, there are certain consequences for failing to comply.

The child support enforcement process begins with identifying the delinquent child support cases. Once those cases have been identified, the assigned caseworker will identify each noncustodial parent or payor and give him or her notice of the delinquent status. The noncustodial parent is usually the party ordered to pay child support.

If the noncustodial parent continues to fail to comply, the caseworker will begin the income withholding process. This process allows the caseworker to contact the noncustodial parent’s employer in order to require a portion of their income withheld and paid directly to child support collections.

In cases where caseworkers are unable to locate the noncustodial parent’s employer, there are other actions available to assist in enforcing the child support order. Some of those actions include reporting the delinquent accounts to the consumer credit reporting agency, placing a levy or fine on the noncustodial parent’s bank accounts or placing a lien on any insurance settlements the noncustodial parent is entitled to receive.

Additionally, the noncustodial parent’s ability to drive or register a vehicle could be suspended and/or restricted, their hunting and/or fishing license can be suspended or restricted, an application to receive a passport or renew a passport could be denied and his or her professional license could be revoked.

When necessary, a caseworker may choose to file a motion for the court to issue an order to show cause against the noncustodial parent. Once the order has been issued, it is then served on the noncustodial parent with a date and time to appear in court and explain why he or she should not be held in contempt. A noncustodial parent could be held in civil or criminal contempt for failing to comply with a child support order.

In some cases, the noncustodial parent may agree to be held in civil contempt and will agree to make a purge payment to child support collections. A purge payment is the amount the noncustodial parent must pay in order to avoid serving time in jail. However, in other cases, the parent could be held in contempt and imprisoned for a specified period of time.

A noncustodial parent or payor is always encouraged to try to agree and comply with making support payments without the use of child support enforcement. There are other options the payor can take in order to avoid the consequences of a delinquent child support case. A few of these options may include negotiating a repayment plan with their child support caseworker or filing a motion to modify or reduce his or her child support payments prior to the case becoming delinquent.

Moreover, the payor is still held responsible for child support payments even when he or she chooses to move to another state. State laws have been enacted to allow child support orders to be upheld and enforced through reciprocal or interstate enforcement. Furthermore, a payor failing to pay child support for a child living in another state could potentially lead to federal criminal prosecution.

Please remember that this information is only meant to inform our readers. This article does not include all of the detailed laws and requirements related to child support enforcement in North Carolina. If you have any additional questions about North Carolina guidelines pertaining to child support or the child support enforcement process, please consult your local Child Support Services office or an attorney. As always: Be informed. Be prepared.

Bellonora McCallum is an attorney at the McCallum Law Firm, PLLC, in Rockingham. Reach her at 910-730-4064 or visit www.mccallumlawfirm.com.