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Child support arrears can lead to serious legal consequences. Non-payment may result in wage garnishment, where a portion of the delinquent parent's income is automatically directed to the owed child support. According to the Office of Child Support Enforcement, in FY 2019, $32.4 billion was collected on behalf of children served by child support programs, with wage garnishment being a significant collection method. Additionally, tax refunds can be intercepted, and liens placed on property.
Further penalties for child support arrears include the suspension of driver's, professional, and recreational licenses. In extreme cases, non-payment can result in contempt of court charges, leading to fines or even jail time. Passport denial is another enforcement tool; the U.S. State Department can restrict the issuance of a passport to anyone owing more than $2,500 in child support. These measures underscore the legal system's commitment to ensuring children receive the financial support they are due.
There are numerous potential penalties for someone in child support arrears, though these are only general guidelines and specific penalties can vary from state to state and in different countries. In the United States (US), each state can have different laws governing the penalties used to enforce child support payments, though there are also federal guidelines. These penalties can include suspension of a driver’s license, suspension of professional licenses, and the revocation of a passport. There are also more direct penalties for child support arrears, such as seizure of tax returns, seizure of bank accounts, and even arrest and serving time in jail.
Child support arrears is the condition in which someone finds himself or herself if he or she fails to pay child support that is legally owed to another person. If someone fails to pay such child support, the owed payments are called "arrearage" and he or she is said to be in child support arrears. Child support is typically any type of payment that is legally granted from one person to another for the care and upbringing of a child for which the two people are the legal parents or guardians. These payments can be the result of a divorce, or simply money owed between two people who had a child but were never married, and are often paid by someone with limited custody or visitation to the person with primary custody of the child.
When someone is in child support arrears, he or she will usually owe one of two types of payments: either fixed arrears or unfixed arrears. Fixed arrears are those a court has ordered must be paid, while unfixed arrears are those that are owed but have not yet been officially recognized and ordered by a court. Once the arrears are legally recognized, the person in child support arrears will be legally required to pay the amount due or face potentially severe legal repercussions.
The penalties for someone in child support arrears usually begin with either threats or actions that can harm the livelihood and professional standing of the person. These often include the revocation of the person’s driver’s license, as well as possible revocation of any professional licenses. Many people facing the possible loss of their legal ability to drive or practice law, medicine, or other licensed professions will pay what is owed to avoid the consequences.
If the payments owed by someone in child support arrears are not paid, then more severe penalties may be applied. These can include the seizure of state and federal income tax returns for use in paying child support, as well as the seizure of bank accounts and the money contained in them. Should these steps not be enough to fulfill the financial obligation of the person, he or she can even be arrested and placed in jail until further payments can be made for him or her.