Contempt proceedings are one of the most common actions taken against parents who fail to pay child maintenance. During contempt proceedings, the payor parent is charged with failing to comply with a court order. These proceedings can be civil or criminal. In civil proceedings, the parent can be ordered to serve an indefinite period in jail until he or she pays the support owed. Upon paying the back child support, the parent is released from jail. In criminal contempt proceedings, the parent is sentenced to a set amount of time in jail as punishment for failing to comply with the order. The parent cannot pay the back support to shorten his or her jail sentence.
The key to holding a parent in contempt of a child support order is finding that the parent has the ability to pay child maintenance but willfully failed to do so. Parents who do not have the ability to pay the support may have a successful defense to a contempt proceeding if they can prove they genuinely could not pay.
Parents who owe back child support may be subject to wage garnishment. The court can order an employer to withhold a certain percentage out of an employee’s paycheck each pay period to meet his or her child support obligations. Additionally, under federal law, employers must report the names of new employees to the state’s new hire directory, which is used to help locate parents who are delinquent in child maintenance payments. There is also a national registry which can be used to help locate parents who move out of state to seek employment. Tax refunds and lottery winnings also can be subject to garnishment.
Enforcing Child Support Orders Across State Lines
State governments and the federal government have taken action to punish parents who cross state lines in hopes of escaping their support obligations. States are required to give full faith and credit to valid final court judgments issued in other states — including child support orders. Thus, parents cannot seek out a new jurisdiction to gain a more favorable child support award. Under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), the court who issued the child maintenance order retains continuing exclusive jurisdiction — this means that if the parents seek to make changes to the original child support order or seek to have it enforced, they must petition the court that originally issued the order. UIFSA provides state courts with long-arm jurisdiction in case one parent relocates to another jurisdiction.
In an effort to reduce welfare costs, the federal government has passed legislation to criminalize willful failures to pay child maintenance. Under the Child Support Recovery Act and the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act, parents who fail to pay child maintenance can face federal penalties, including fines and incarceration.
Talk to a Child Support Lawyer
Delinquent child support payments can put a strain on families and society as a whole. For more information on enforcing a child support order, contact The Mandel Law Firm in New York, New York, today to schedule a consultation with a family law attorney.
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