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What Are the Consequences of Not Paying Child Support?

Posted on: April 25, 2019

As a parent, your children depend on child support to cover their basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing. Parents in Virginia who have been ordered to pay child support have a legal and ethical responsibility to their minor children to ensure these basic needs are satisfied. Parents who choose not to pay child support can face severe penalties that can include interest, suspension of professional credentials, and jail time.

Virginia’s Division of Child Support Enforcement (DSCE)

The DSCE is responsible for enforcing your child support orders in Virginia. They have the authority to collect payments on your behalf via income garnishments or by intercepting tax refunds. They may also take administrative actions that can include suspending the non-custodial parent’s driver’s license and any professional licenses they possess.

The DSCE can also report delinquent child support payments to the three credit bureaus and place liens on the non-custodial parent’s property and assets. This broad authority helps ensure that delinquent parents will face significant penalties should they decide not to pay you child support.

Possible Jail Time

Section 228 within Title 18 of the United States Code makes it a crime for a non-custodial parent to willfully neglect their child support obligations. If the individual owes more than $5,000, or if the payments are more than 1 year past due, the courts can pursue jail time.

If payments are more than 2 years overdue or exceed $10,000, this is classified as a felony. In these circumstances, the courts can levy significant fines and imprison the offender for up to 2 years.

You should know that the DCSE does not have the authority to arrest and imprison noncustodial parents for failure to pay child support. This power resides within the courts. However, DCSE can file a petition with the court that recommends the court consider jail time. Judges in Virginia do not typically imprison offenders, as this significantly hinders their ability to pay. Thus, imprisonment is often reserved for only the most serious offenders.

Accrual of Interest & Visitation Rights

Late child support payments and arrears accrue interest at a rate of 6% per annum on any amounts that remain unpaid after 30 days. This interest accrues until the arrears have been paid in full.

Custodial parents cannot deny the non-custodial parent’s right to see the child even if they owe substantial back child support. Child support and visitation rights for non-custodial parents are separate issues in Virginia and a delinquent parent’s failure to pay child support has no bearing on their right to see the child.

Addressing Inability to Pay

DCSE reviews child support orders every 36 months. This helps ensure that the amounts specified by the courts remain appropriate. This review can either raise or lower the required amount of child support. Until this review is completed, the existing child support orders remain in effect.

Should a parent’s financial situation change and their income drop, they have the ability to request a change to the child support orders. However, even after a change in financial situation occurs, such as a job loss, disability, etc., the existing orders remain in effect until the courts determine that a reduction in child support obligation is justified.

The courts do not like to incarcerate delinquent parents for lengthy periods of time because there is no possibility for them to earn income and catch up on their payments while they are in jail. Again, jail time is usually reserved for the most egregious offenders, who typically have the ability to pay but choose to deliberately shun their financial obligations to their children.

We invite you to contact the Graham Law Firm, PLLC at (703) 443-9360 for more information about collecting child support in Virginia. We can help guide you through your legal options and help you develop a strategy that can help parents deliver the support their children deserve. 

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