Jail Time for Unpaid Child Support 

Posted in Child Custody,Child Support on April 21, 2024

Often called sentencing a deadbeat parent to jail time, there is a risk that a non-paying parent could find themselves going to jail. This is often the last resort for most courts because, once the parent is in jail, they are not able to work to earn money to meet the child support obligations anyway.

It is critical to understand what your legal options are if you have not paid your child support or if the other parent to your child owes you money. The key here is to know what the legal process is likely to look like. Talk to a Solana Beach child support lawyer at Ratzer|Dobis today.

How Courts Enforce Child Support Orders

While jail time is one of the steps that the court can take in most states because they are violating a court order, it is often the last thing they will do. Before this, the court is likely to take the following steps to enforce child support orders:

  • Garnish wages: This includes deducting money from a person’s paycheck to pay for child support, which the court can do by forcing an employer to take this action.
  • Withholding other income: If the person is likely to receive other income, such as pension payments or a bonus at work, the court can force those funds to be sent to pay towards the child support.
  • Tax offsets: The government can also funnel the tax refund a person gets at the state or federal level to meet child support obligations.
  • License suspension and revocations: if there is still a lack of payment on child support payments, the court is likely to withdraw driving privileges, including suspending or revoking a person’s license.
  • Liens on property: The court may next seek out a lien to put on any property the person owns, such as a home or business. This makes it impossible for that property to be sold without first paying off the owed child support.
  • Freezing bank accounts: The court can also freeze bank accounts in some situations. This would allow for the individual to be required to pay all back child support before they gain access to their bank account again.
  • Freeze passports: The court can issue a restriction placed on a person’s passport if they owe more than $2,500 in back child support. This would flag them when they tried to use it.

Pursuing Jail Time

In situations where a person does not make payment on their owed child support, the court will likely hold them in contempt, meaning the court will alert them of their violation of the court order. If this continues, the court can put a person in jail for a specific length of time for nonpayment.

A person who is held in contempt of court is not given a jury trial. Instead, a judge makes the decision about going to jail as well as the length of time they may spend in jail based on the state’s laws. Most of the time, a judge is not going to rule in this favor because it limits the child support payments even further.