Child support is most often an issue when you are divorced and have minor children from your previous marriage. Depending on your the terms of your divorce agreement, a court order may be in place requiring you to pay your ex spouse a sum of money each month for a set amount of time. The court order may also require that you provide your kids with medical aid, help pay for their university educations, etc.
If you have minor children from a non-married relationship, you can also owe child support if the other parent obtains a child support court order.
Even during financially difficult times, you have a moral, as well as legal, obligation to pay court ordered child support every month. Child support should be made a priority each month, as children should not have to suffer from money troubles.
Consequences of defaulting on child support payments:
- The state that settled the child support agreement will come after you for payment collection
- A child support debt collection agency may try to collect from you
- The other parent may hire an attorney to collect from you
- A family law judge may put you in jail until you pay your past-due child support
Starting a new family has no effect on your financial obligations to the minor children you already have. You must carry on providing for them with support according to the terms of your court ordered child support. The court will not modify the court order just because you have more kids.
Being Pursued by a Child Support Collection Agency:
The other parent involved may hire a private child support collection agency to collect the money you owe.
Initially, most private child support collection agencies will contact you directly to discuss how you intend to get caught up on what you owe. If you cannot pay your debt in full, the agency that contacts you tries to get you to agree to an instalment payment plan. If you can’t afford one or you aren’t able to agree on the terms of a plan, the agency may ask the court for permission to do one of the following:
- Have your wages garnished
- Place liens on some of your assets
- Enforce a lien that may already be in place as part of your divorce agreement
- Freeze assets, such as the money in your retirement plan, any settlements you have received from an insurance company, or an inheritance. When these assets are frozen, you cannot sell, borrow against, or transfer them without clearing up your child support debt first.
If you are contacted by a child support collection agency and can’t afford to pay your debt in a lump sum or through an instalment plan, discuss your options with a bankruptcy attorney.
Hearing from an Attorney:
Another way the other parent of your minor children may try to collect the past due child support money is by hiring a family law attorney.
The attorney can take all the same steps that a private debt collection agency can to collect what you owe. These steps include putting a lien on your assets, enforcing an existing lien, taking a portion of your salary every month, seizing some of your assets, freezing some of your assets.
If you hear from an attorney about your past due child support obligation, get in touch with a family law or bankruptcy attorney right away.
For more information on child support and how to keep up with child support obligations, please read:
1. How to keep up with your child support obligations