A child support warrant is an order issued by a judge to arrest someone for nonpayment of child support and to bring that person into court to resolve the matter. Child support warrants are issued when people have not paid child support for an extended period of time, owe a lot of money in support, or cannot be located. Both civil and criminal warrants are available.
Most typically, a civil child support warrant is issued. The parent owed support attends court with a copy of the child support agreement and proof that the noncustodial parent is not paying support. After reviewing the facts of the case, the judge can issue a warrant for contempt as the noncustodial parent is not complying with the court order to pay support. The noncustodial parent must appear in court to show cause for not paying support and law enforcement agencies are authorized to make an arrest to bring the parent into court.
There are situations where a prosecutor may file a case against a parent who is not paying child support. In these cases, a criminal child support warrant is issued. Criminal warrants are used when the nonpayment of support is classified as a felony, usually determined by the amount owed. The definitions for felony nonpayment vary by region and people should familiarize themselves with these definitions before approaching a prosecutor to request a filing of felony charges.
Issuing a warrant does not necessarily result in the appearance of the nonpaying parent in court. People can evade child support and may choose to ignore a child support warrant. Cooperation of law enforcement officers who can pursue people for nonpayment is needed to get subjects into court. Once in court, the subject can be questioned to determine why the court order for child support was violated. The goal of a child support warrant is to recover some or all of the monies owed and to make adjustments to the court order, if needed, to keep the parent current with child support in the future.
Failure to pay child support can have significant consequences. Wages may be garnished by court order to collect support directly from a person's paycheck. When criminal warrants are issued, people may be listed as wanted criminals and the warrants will interfere with security checks and background checks. If someone is concerned about making child support payments, it is advisable to contact the court to let the court know that the court order cannot be complied with due to changes in circumstances like job loss and to request a hearing to make adjustments to the child support agreement.
Can You Get a Warrant for Unpaid Child Support Expunged From Your Record?
Getting something expunged, in legal terms, means that the record of a conviction is sealed or destroyed. If you are a person who is seeking a job, a loan, to adopt or any sort of federal assistance, you will want to have legal blemishes erased prior to completing the application. However, can you get a warrant for unpaid child support expunged from your record?
In general, the answer to this question varies. Precedence is put on the laws of the state where the child support warrant was issued. Additionally, emphasis is placed on your prior criminal history and whether you are on probation or parole. If you meet the necessary criteria and qualify to have a warrant for unpaid child support expunged, however, the next step is to submit a petition with all of the required paperwork to the court in the jurisdiction where you were convicted.
If the court accepts the petition and grants the order, you no longer have a legal obligation to disclose the child support warrant or any information in reference to the case as part of your criminal background. It is important to note, though, the expungement order is only shared with the primary agencies that were directly involved in the processing of the child support warrant. Private background check companies that purchase data might still have the outdated information in their system and may have to be notified in order to update their records.
To ensure that an expunged warrant for unpaid child support is thoroughly sealed across government agencies and private third parties, hiring an attorney may be a necessary step. The expertise, resources and connections that a personal lawyer has to protect your name and your records can be worth the financial investment.
Can You Get a Warrant for Child Support if You Are Unemployed?
Parents who are ordered by a court to make child support payments have a responsibility to take care of their child's basic living expenses. Failure to do so will lead to legal consequences that range from garnished wages to arrests. However, when unemployment becomes a factor, the circumstances surrounding the obligation can become complicated. This often depends on whether the unemployment is involuntary or voluntary.
Involuntary unemployment refers to someone who does not have a job despite a willingness to work and efforts to find employment. Situations such as these could factor into a court's decision to pursue a child support warrant for discontinued payments. If the parent providing the court-mandated support suddenly becomes involuntarily unemployed, the obligation to continue the payments as scheduled does not end. Failure to provide the agreed-upon financial assistance without context or communication, both to the parent receiving payment as well as the court, could result in the issuance of a child support warrant.
However, if the obligor, which is the parent making the child support payments, suddenly becomes involuntarily unemployed but follows the proper protocols, the court has the discretion to make arrangements that would provide temporary relief or a reduction from the order. The obligor's steps to pursue this would include officially filing for a child support modification, citing a significant change in circumstances. This would then have to be followed up with proof that the unemployment was involuntary.
There are a few important points to remember if you find yourself in need of a modification due to involuntary unemployment:
- Communicate with the child support agency immediately.
- Even after a job loss, child support payments continue because adjustments and changes can only be mandated by the court.
- Modifications are more likely if unemployment is expected to be a long-term situation.
- If you collect benefits as a result of your unemployment, child support payments can be deducted.
Voluntary unemployment is when an individual with adequate health chooses not to continue work, accept a job or pursue available employment. A person who is terminated for illegal activity or willfully quits a job for various reasons might also be classified as voluntarily unemployed.
The courts treat these cases differently than involuntary unemployment situations. In some states, if a parent voluntarily chooses not to work, a court may then consider support payments based on their imputed income. Imputed income is the amount that a parent is capable of earning and includes factors such as:
- Education and training
- Previous income amounts
- Physical and mental health
- Status of the local job market
If the voluntarily unemployed parent defaults on payments, a child support warrant will be issued. This typically results in court appearances and orders for back child support on the amount owed. Interest may be added to the principal balance.