Taking care of one’s children is a life-long obligation, whether the parents remain married to one another or not. When a couple divorces, the court often awards child support payments to be paid by one parent to the other–generally the one who is given primary physical custody of the child. When there is a failure to pay child support, there can be legal and administrative consequences.
In New York, various enforcement actions can be taken to recover child support from the person who has fallen behind on payments. Enforcement action encompasses both collecting past dues and also ensuring future compliance with the order. Administrative actions are pursued first. When child support payments fall behind, the support order can temporarily increase by a maximum of 50 percent of the amount ordered by the court until the person is caught up with their payments. Delinquent parties’ bank accounts or other financial assets could be seized to satisfy support payments that are past due if the amount is at least $300 and the amount is equal to or more than two months of delinquent payments. Driver’s licenses can also be suspended if the amount is more or equal to four months worth of payments. Depending on the amount, the enforcement action gets more severe, including denial of new and renewed passports if at least $2,500 is owed in past payments.
Additionally, judicial processes are also available for relief. Once administrative actions have been exhausted, a petition can be filed with the Family Court requesting that they enforce the order. The court can order a money judgment and even force the owing parent to deposit a cash amount of up to three years of future child support. The court can also order the arrest of a parent who doesn’t show up for the violation hearing or who has fallen seriously behind in their child support payments. Since non-payment of child support is a federal crime, criminal prosecution can also be requested.
Child support is an essential component of a divorce agreement, and failure to pay can lead to serious consequences, both for the parent making the payment and the parent receiving the payment, as they rely on that payment to cover everyday expenses. If someone has fallen behind on their payments or one feels they cannot make their payments, they should consider consulting an experienced attorney for guidance.