Child Support Enforcement and Contempt Proceedings
All parents must meet their court-ordered obligations. Those who do not pay support, pay sporadically or pay less than ordered may be subject to contempt proceedings, fines, and jail time. If you have questions about enforcing an order or need help defending a contempt action, contact our lawyers at Atlanta Family Law Group. An experienced family law attorney can review your situation and explain your rights.
Child Support Arrears
Be mindful, there is no statute of limitations on the collection of arrears. The child may already be an adult when the parent petitions to collect arrearages from the payor. Once a judgment is entered, interest accrues at the statutory post judgment rate. These judgments do not expire either. They must be paid in full with interest or will continue in effect. The custodial parent should not delay pursuing collection of child support arrears, which could prove to be a risky strategy. Of course, the parent who becomes a judgment debtor should do everything possible to pay the judgment off.
Enforcing Child Support Orders
Contempt proceedings are the most common enforcement actions taken against parents who fail to pay support. The key to holding a parent in contempt is the court’s finding that he or she had the ability to pay, yet willfully failed to do so. A parent who genuinely does not have the ability to pay support as ordered may have a successful defense in a contempt proceeding.
During contempt proceedings, the defendant is charged with failing to comply with a court order. These proceedings can be civil or criminal. In civil proceedings, the family court can order various relief to the unpaid parent. The parent could stay out of jail on a purge condition, meaning he or she agrees to make a purge payment that covers the arrears in order to end contempt for the court’s order. The parent could be ordered to serve an indefinite period in jail until the support owed is paid, typically in a lump sum. Upon paying those arrears, or back child support, the parent is released from jail.
Wage Garnishment For Child Support
Parents who owe arrears may be subject to wage garnishment. The court may order an employer to withhold a certain percentage from an employee’s paycheck each pay period to meet their obligations. Additionally, under federal law employers must report the names of new employees to the state’s new-hire directory. The directory is used to help locate parents delinquent in their payments. A national registry also helps locate parents who move out-of-state in search of work. The payor’s tax refund and lottery winnings may be garnished, too.