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What Happens If I Get Behind On Child Support?

It is widely known that missed child support payments could result in jail time if the party is found to be in violation of a court order. For many jurisdictions across the United States this threat is considered an effective incentive for people who are able but unwilling to pay. However, critics of the policy view it as a trap for the poor.

In Georgia the Southern Center for Human Rights filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of parents incarcerated without legal representation for failure to pay. A total of 3,500 parents were jailed in 2010 for failure to pay court ordered child support. A major contributor to the large number of jailed parents is the low income level of those who fell behind. One study conducted by the Urban Institute on child support debt found that 70 percent of the arrears were owed by people who reported less than $10,000 a year in income. On average, those persons were expected to pay 83 percent of their income in child support.

Superior court judges have a wide range of options when it comes to enforcing a child support order. Once a failure of the noncustodial parent to pay is brought to the court’s attention the judge will have a hearing to decide whether to hold the nonpaying parent in contempt. In that case, the court could impose fines or jail time. However, at the hearing the party will have an opportunity to provide an explanation as to why they have fallen behind on the payments. Explanations such as being immobilized, depressed, sick or injured may be useful to present to the court. Most importantly, compelling and truthful arguments are the best approach.

The important thing to remember is that the advice of an attorney is critical if you are in a position where you cannot meet the court ordered child support obligation. If you find yourself in this position you can seek a modification of the court’s order. Douglasville Divorce and Family Law Attorneys provide free consultations on modifications from existing court ordered child support obligations and other divorce related matters. If you have any questions contact our law firm today.