Unpaid child support
Halt | February 25, 2022 | 1 Comment

Jail Time for Unpaid Child Support

Child support is a court directive and failure to pay up can get you in trouble for contempt of court. However, jail time is the last resort if all other attempts to get the defaulter to pay fails.

If you are behind payment on your child support dues, you may be wondering if it can result in jail time. According to prisonlegalnews.org, yes, it can.

Unfortunately, it is the low-income parents that face the greatest impact of child support problems.

What Happens If You Miss A Payment?

What Happens If You Miss a Payment

If you know that you will miss a child support payment for whatever reason, the first thing to do would be to notify the recipient explaining why you may fail to pay on time and when you expect to pay up. If they are understanding, they may not report your failure to pay or late payment. If not, the other party can seek to have the court charge you with contempt.

After the court accepts the receiving party’s request, you will be served with a notice to attend a court hearing to explain the missed payment. When served with the notice, it is important to honor it. Failing to honor the court summons will prompt the judge to issue a warrant of arrest, resulting in jail time.

However, attending the court hearing does not get you out of the woods yet. You can still go to jail if the reason for your failure to pay is not convincing enough to the judge. So, it is important to have a credible reason if you hope to remain free.

How Long Can You Go To Jail For Failing To Pay Child Support?

How Long Can You Go to Jail for Failing to Pay Child Support

Willful failure to pay child support is a crime under both state and federal laws. Penalties for the commission of the offense under state laws may vary from one state to another. The court will usually seek to verify the defendant’s reason for defaulting and prescribe the applicable penalty if defaulting is intentional. If the court establishes that the unpaid child support was willful, the defendant can face up to a year in county jail and penalties of up 2,000 dollars.

Federal Laws On Child Support

When To Pay Child and Spousal Support

Federal laws may also apply in some circumstances. Failure to pay child support, in most cases, becomes a federal offense if the defaulter has over one year of defaulted payments and the amounts exceed 5,000 dollars. A conviction under these circumstances will result in six months in prison and applicable fines.

Additionally, failure to pay is a federal offense if the child support is more than two years overdue, and the unpaid child support amounts to over 10,000 dollars. Upon conviction under such circumstances, the offender will be guilty of a felony, attracting a penalty of up to two years in jail and fines. It is also a federal offense to cross state or international borders to avoid paying child support if the unpaid child support is one year from the due date and the amounts owed are 5,000 dollars or more.

Other consequences for willful failure to pay child support include interception of unemployment benefits and tax refunds, loss of a driving license, property liens, loss of passport, and property seizure.


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