What Can I Do If Child Support Isn’t Being Paid?
In these trying times, many parents are facing difficult decisions about how to pay bills and, in some circumstances, which bills to pay. Child support can be a significant financial obligation, but it is one that should not be missed if at all possible. If your former spouse or parent to your child has failed to make child support payments, you have options to recover missed payments and compel future payments.
A child support award is a court order that carries with it the effect of a monetary judgment. Monetary judgments, including those for child support, may be enforced by a court through an action for contempt of a court order. Contempt actions can be the quickest and most effective method to obtain relief from a non-paying parent.
Under Georgia law, contempt of a court order is the willful refusal to comply with the order. In other words, if the party obligated to a child support obligation has the ability to pay but refuses to do so, they are in contempt and may be subject to certain penalties. These penalties can include:
- Unpaid child support to date
- Interest on the late support payments
- Court fines and fees
- Garnishment of paychecks or other accounts
- Attorney’s fees
- Revocation of professional and/or recreational licenses
- Jail time until child support is paid
An action for contempt must generally be brought in the same court that rendered your original child support order, except in special and unique circumstances. In a contempt action, the court has the authority to enforce the original order and impose the penalties identified above, but it does not have the authority to modify the terms of the original child support award. Thus, if the responding party wishes to have their support obligation reduced or modified, they cannot do so as part of the contempt action; they must bring their own action for modification of the child support award.
Even if a party finds themselves in a difficult position in the payment of child support, it is often better to make the child support payment over other financial obligations because of the penalties associated with non-payment. A child support obligation cannot be waived by the recipient—it can only be modified by an order of the court upon a showing of a substantial change in either party’s income or in the needs of the child(ren).
If the other parent to your child has failed to pay you child support, you are entitled to recoup those payments from that party, and may also be entitled to interest on the late payments. If you need assistance collecting on past-due child support, reach out to an Atlanta child support attorney from Buckhead Family Law today at 404-600-1403 for personalized assistance and attention.