What Do You Do When Child Support Payments Stop?

Child support can be the lifeblood that carries a parent financially by from one month to the next.

So when that regular monthly or bi-monthly child support check doesn’t show up in the mail one day, or isn’t dropped off on time, it can be a jarring event. Who should you call? Your ex? Your attorney?  His employer?

The first thing that is very good to know is that South Carolina takes non-payment of child support very seriously. Just over 30 years ago, more than 30 percent of custodial parents in South Carolina didn’t get any child support payments at all.

Now, there are additional resources and stricter laws for child support enforcement which toughen up child support obligations in South Carolina. More than ½ of all child support agreements in South Carolina now are paid through withholding orders, and the percentage of parents who fail to pay has fallen.  Consequently, the child support recipient who years ago might have seen little chance of collecting unpaid child support now has a variety of options.

First Contact the Other Parent and Find Out the Problem

Sometimes, the easiest way to find out important information is to just ask, particularly if the two parents are on reasonably good terms. A quick call or email could reveal that there was a change of jobs, a short term layoff without pay, or even a change in ownership of the employer that caused a pay lapse.

Alternatively, the non-paying parent could have suffered a short term financial shortfall caused by a non-recurring medical expense or other cost. Such an event does not excuse the lack of payment, but may help to explain the missing check and provide reassurance to the custodial parent that future payments will continue.

It could also be that the minor child had reached the age of emancipation (18, or 19 in some cases) and further support was not provided in the settlement agreement.

If you do discover there has been a change in employment in any way, take down all of the information you can get. This would include any new employer name, new job title, increased wage amount and where he or she will work. Sometimes an increase in salary can mean a boost in required child support payments.

However, if there is tension between the two parents, it may be better to get this information through your attorney.

Report any Non-Payment to Your Attorney

South Carolina provides a variety of enforcement tools to encourage timely child support payment. One of the most important obligations that a parent can have is to financially support his or her children. So if the other parent misses or is late in payment, the custodial parent should not feel any reservation about taking that information and giving it to an attorney for follow-up.

Your attorney may have several court options to compel payments from a non-paying parent, including:

  • Garnishing wages, if they’re not already being garnished.
  • Confiscating the non-paying parent’s federal or state tax refund.
  • Reporting owed child support of the non-paying parent to credit reporting agencies.
  • Revoking or have restrictions placed on the non-paying parent’s state driver’s license, recreational license, and even professional license.
  • Denying ability to obtain or renew passport.
  • Seizing of bank accounts, property or even automobile.
  • Requiring non-paying parent to undergo job training.
  • Deducting child support from unemployment compensation and other benefits.
  • Applying lien against property.
  • Possible jail time if failure to pay willful.

A motion for Rule to Show Cause can help determine if the non-paying parent failed to comply with a court order in good faith and chose intentionally not to abide by the order. Even though this motion is brought in the family law court, it should be taken very seriously.

If a non-paying parent is found to be in contempt, the family law judge has several key options available that are intended to encourage respect for court orders. These options include: ordering the non-paying parent to 1 year in jail, a $1500 fine, and 300 hours of community service.

So in the event a non-custodial parent in your life decides to buy a new car instead of getting current on unpaid child support arrears, there are almost a dozen ways that you can use the law, often through the help of a good attorney, to get the unpaid support that is due to you.

 

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