What Is a Child Support Warrant?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Someone accused of nonpayment of child support might be arrested under a child support warrant.
Someone accused of nonpayment of child support might be arrested under a child support warrant.

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.

Purposefully disobeying a court order for child support may result in a charge of civil contempt.
Purposefully disobeying a court order for child support may result in a charge of civil contempt.

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.

A warrant might be issued for someone who is not keeping up with child support payments.
A warrant might be issued for someone who is not keeping up with child support payments.

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.

The number of children that a person has is typically considered in determining the amount of child support that he or she must pay.
The number of children that a person has is typically considered in determining the amount of child support that he or she must pay.

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.

Law enforcement officers may need to get involved if someone refuses to pay child support.
Law enforcement officers may need to get involved if someone refuses to pay child support.

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?

If a judge issues a warrant for a non-custodial parent not paying child support, law enforcement officers are authorized to arrest him and bring him to court.
If a judge issues a warrant for a non-custodial parent not paying child support, law enforcement officers are authorized to arrest him and bring him to court.

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?

A non-custodial parent may be required to pay child support up until the child is 18 years old in some cases.
A non-custodial parent may be required to pay child support up until the child is 18 years old in some cases.

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

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

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.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a MyLawQuestions researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a MyLawQuestions researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon1005919

If you have a felony warrant for child support, does the warrant go away once the support is paid?

anon1005863

How do I find out if I missed court, besides calling? Can I go online and see?

anon1000324

The 42 U.S.C. §654(3) disseminated false advertisements (See 15 U.S.C. §52), that IV-D is enforced in the best interest of children. However, Title IV-D was not intended to benefit children. See Blessing v. Freestone. Title IV-D was created and intended only to benefit the public treasury. See Wehunt v. Ledbetter. Every State contractually agreed to participate in the IV-D program to offer and sell IV-D services as a condition of receiving federal funding. See Oliphant, slip op. at 16. Title 42 The Public Health and Welfare was never enacted into Law. See 1 U.S.C. §204

anon979213

Calling the sheriff's department or harassing an obliger is harassment and extortion. There is due process, the child support enforcement group. If you don't like the way they handle things then get a lawyer. Don't "baby mama drama" him or you'll find yourself in as much hot water as he is.

anon946040

My ex moved to another state and now Nebraska will not go serve the three warrants for failure to appear on sentencing for child support. They said it is not a felony warrant and not worth the money it would cost to extradite him. I will have to wait for him to go back to Nebraska to be arrested. I have given the sheriff's office his new address also.

anon942700

You should not harbor a felon or someone who is accused of wrong doing. Your maturity has not grown enough to fathom the responsibilities of adult men and women who must help, insure, provide subsidies for a child that never asked to be here.

Do you remember when you were a child? Was there a time that you did without? This boyfriend was just a boyfriend and you shouldn't date to be dating, but to marry and ensure a financial future, not to continue to just have a piece a man.

anon357426

For you to call him your boyfriend, he still should be arrested. He isn't providing for his child and that is why he got arrested. I would hope you didn't know that he was not providing. If you did, you should go to jail right with him.

It is hard raising a child by yourself. Things add up like daycare, doctor visits, clothes, shoes, entertainment, etc. People need to get it together.

anon356889

You should have answered the door and stop helping someone who does not take care of his obligations. If he's running from paying child support, I am sure that he does not help you on anything because he cannot have a good job. Get away from him as fast as you can cause he will only hurt you and not help you in any kind of way, financially or emotionally.

anon135796

Can you tell me what rights the police have when arresting for child support? My boyfriend was arrested for non payment for child support. He lives with me and his name is not on the lease. We did not answer the door when the officers were knocking and they basically came in through a window. Is this legal or did they break into my home? What rights do I have?

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    • Someone accused of nonpayment of child support might be arrested under a child support warrant.
      By: Alexander Raths
      Someone accused of nonpayment of child support might be arrested under a child support warrant.
    • Purposefully disobeying a court order for child support may result in a charge of civil contempt.
      By: Junial Enterprises
      Purposefully disobeying a court order for child support may result in a charge of civil contempt.
    • A warrant might be issued for someone who is not keeping up with child support payments.
      By: Mamuka
      A warrant might be issued for someone who is not keeping up with child support payments.
    • The number of children that a person has is typically considered in determining the amount of child support that he or she must pay.
      By: Petro Feketa
      The number of children that a person has is typically considered in determining the amount of child support that he or she must pay.
    • Law enforcement officers may need to get involved if someone refuses to pay child support.
      By: Susan Stevenson
      Law enforcement officers may need to get involved if someone refuses to pay child support.
    • If a judge issues a warrant for a non-custodial parent not paying child support, law enforcement officers are authorized to arrest him and bring him to court.
      By: Marc Roche
      If a judge issues a warrant for a non-custodial parent not paying child support, law enforcement officers are authorized to arrest him and bring him to court.
    • A non-custodial parent may be required to pay child support up until the child is 18 years old in some cases.
      By: Photographee.eu
      A non-custodial parent may be required to pay child support up until the child is 18 years old in some cases.