Can you go to jail for not paying child support? Well, the short answer is, that despite the fact that you are often required by the court to do so, you will be found in contempt of court for failing to pay your child support responsibilities. This can happen for a couple of reasons including simply not having the funds or outright refusal to pay.
However, anyone who fails to pay child support is in violation of a court order, regardless of the circumstances. What must be recognized is that this is a legal responsibility imposed by the court, and failing to pay the court-ordered sum of child support is a legal offense punishable under Arizona statute 25-511. In simple terms, you will definitely be going to jail for not paying child support. Let’s go into this in full detail…
Can You Go to Jail for Not Paying Child Support: What Happens in Arizona & the US?
Understand that neglecting to pay your child support, regardless of the reason, is a violation of a court order. When your payment is late, you are in contempt of court, and the judge may issue an arrest warrant for you.
Although this may appear harsh, officials have worked to ensure that parents who are expected to pay child support do so. Failure to do so can result in the revocation of your driver’s license, professional licenses, wage privileges, and the loss of federal income tax refunds. It can even lead to incarceration.
Many people are unaware that failing to pay child support can result in you being arrested and sentenced to prison. This can be a misdemeanor or a sixth-degree felony depending on the amount outstanding and the number of violations a person has.
How Long Can Someone Go to Jail For Not Paying Child Support?
If you don’t pay your child support, you’ll face two levels of punishment. As previously stated, you can be charged with either a felony or a misdemeanor.
If you are convicted of the misdemeanor charge, you could face a fine of up to $2500 and six months in jail. Generally, the time is served in a county workhouse or in county jail.
If you are charged with a felony, on the other hand, you might face up to 18 months in prison. In this case, you would certainly be sent to a state facility, where you will be compelled to serve the majority of your sentence before being released back into society.
Although this may appear to be a harsh penalty, state legislators wanted to be clear that they expect parents to pay their court-ordered child support. There isn’t much you can do about it.
Also keep in mind that, while you may not want to pay this support, serving 18 months in prison will put you in considerable financial constraints. You’ll not only lose your job, your home, and any money you have, but you’ll also have to rebuild your life, which might cost you tens of thousands of dollars. It’s evident that it’s not worth it.
If I Fall Behind on My Payments, How Can I Avoid Going to Jail?
If you see that you are falling behind on your child support payments or that you will be unable to make the next payment, it is time to take action. You should start by contacting the other parent of your child or children to see if you can work out a plan that will allow you to catch up on payments and set a payment schedule for the future.
Consider that your other parent also does not want you to go to jail. They require your assistance, which you will not be able to provide if you are incarcerated. It’s likely that something can be worked out if you’ve been doing everything you needed to up to this point.
That isn’t always the case, though. In this scenario, you should contact the court and see if you can work anything out with the judge or magistrate who is hearing your case. The court shares your sentiments in that it does not want you to go to prison. Because if you are unable to care for your children, the state assumes responsibility for them. This would make them more understanding of your situation, but you must be proactive and discuss it with the court before it becomes a serious issue.
Is It Possible for Someone to Fall So Far Behind That Jail Is Their Only Option?
If you are more than three months or $1000 behind on your child support payments, the court will view you as a delinquent who just refuses to pay. In this scenario, you may be certain that an order has been issued to have you arrested and hauled before a judge to explain yourself.
You don’t want to spend your entire life looking over your shoulder, hoping that you won’t be pulled over for some minor infraction and end up in jail. Instead, you should take action by contacting the court and making arrangements for you to come in and speak with the judge about the matter.
This is not, however, something you should attempt on your own. You should seek the advice of legal counsel to determine the best course of action in this situation.
What are the Consequences of Not Paying Child Support?
Parents who fail to pay legally compelled child support face severe consequences in Georgia. Among them include, but are not limited to:
#1. Jail Term:
A judge can force a parent who is behind on their payments to serve time in jail. But because a parent in jail cannot earn money to make payments, this is normally saved as a last resort.
#2. Suspension of a Driver’s License or Refusal of a Driver’s Licence Renewal:
A parent who fails to pay court-ordered child support may lose their driver’s license. When a parent’s payments are more than 60 days late, the state imposes this penalty.
#3. Suspension of Professional License:
Failure to pay child support in Georgia can result in the suspension of a professional license. These include a license to practice medicine, an engineering license, or a teaching license, among others. It can also result in a business license being suspended until payments are completed.
#4. Wage Garnishment:
It is permissible to deduct a parent’s income from their paycheck if they do not pay their court-ordered child support. In reality, child support payments can be garnished up to 50% of a parent’s salary.
These penalties can severely disrupt a person’s life, making it impossible for them to get around; including getting a job. If you’re having trouble making payments, you should strive to avoid these penalties if at all feasible. Whatever scenario you find yourself in, a lawyer can assist you.
Should I Deny My Child’s Parent Court-Ordered Visitation in Order to Get Them to Pay?
No. Aside from the fact that such a decision may harm your child, one parent’s violation of one court order does not justify the other parent’s violation of another. If you violate a visitation order, you could face harsh consequences, including jail time. The easiest approach to deal with this problem is to submit a complaint to the judge alleging that your child’s other parent is failing to pay, and the judge will make a decision. A lawyer can assist you with this process.
What if My Financial Circumstances Have Changed and I Am Unable to Pay Child Support?
The financial condition of a parent can change at any time. It’s possible that you’ll lose your job or have your compensation reduced. A parent who receives child support payments may be promoted or given a raise. There are a variety of circumstances that can affect the amount of child support owed by one parent. In instances like this, it’s essential to keep making your court-ordered child support payments until a judge decides if a payment change is necessary. Judges do make modifications from time to time. A lawyer can also help you weigh your alternatives and determine whether returning to court to seek a change is a wise idea.
Child Support Issues That May Require the Services of a Lawyer
Not only is family law emotional, but it may also be complicated. Child support situations, in particular, would definitely benefit from the guidance of an experienced lawyer. The financial conditions of a parent, as well as the child’s welfare, are all factors in these cases.
Furthermore, the consequences of neglecting to pay are severe. Attorneys work hard to address your problems and provide a solution. They assist in any of the following scenarios:
- You want to adjust how much child support you get or how much you have to be paying so you can stay away from jail
- You are the custodial parent, but you are not receiving the child support payments that the other parent is obligated to pay under the law.
- Legal advice for a parent who is behind on child support payments (past-due payments).
- You are unfamiliar with child support issues and require legal assistance.
Each of these concerns can be remedied by seeking legal advice from a seasoned family law attorney.
Is It Possible for the Court to Seize My Wages?
If you don’t pay child support, Child Support Services has the ability to seize your salary. This can be a regular deduction from your paycheck or a one-time garnishment. CSS can ask the court to obtain a Writ of Garnishment, which allows them to remove up to 65 percent of an individual’s disposable income for child support payments.
For non-income personal property, such as a bank account, a one-time garnishment is available.
CSS can intercept income tax refunds, unemployment compensation, workers’ compensation benefit payments, and lottery wins in addition to salaries.
Can My Property Be Seized by the Court?
If you don’t pay your child support, a lien will be placed on your property. CSS can place a lien on your personal belongings, your home, or other real estate properties, including your car. Payment of the unpaid child support must be provided in full to relieve the lien.
What if I’m Found to Be In Contempt of Court?
The court is the one that issues child support orders. If the individual does not follow the orders, the court may declare him or her in contempt of court. You could risk jail time and fines if the court deems you in contempt for failing to pay child support.
If an individual fails to appear after receiving a citation and motion for failure to pay child support, a bench warrant for their arrest may be issued. If you are pulled over by the police for a traffic infraction, they will see that you have a warrant and will arrest you. It’s possible that you’ll have to stay in jail until the child support payments are made. You may be subject to a court fine and other expenses in addition to paying delinquent child support.
How Can I Get a Warrant for Failure to Pay Child Support Lifted?
You could be arrested at any time if you have an arrest warrant for contempt of court charges. Even if you go to court to try to resolve the issue, you could be arrested and imprisoned. If you have an arrest warrant, your lawyer may be able to have it quashed so that you are not arrested.
What Happens if I Am Unable to Pay Child Support?
You may be able to petition the court for assistance if you are unemployed or having trouble paying the court-ordered child support. If a parent who owes prior child support is unemployed, the court may require that the parent pay the support according to a court-approved plan or engage in work activities such as community service or vocational training. But it goes without saying that you can go to jail for not paying child support if you do not have a valid reason or a good attorney.
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