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When Child Support Payments Fall Short During the Holidays

After a divorce, one parent is often asked to pay support to the parent who has primary custody of their child, unless both parents share physical and legal custody. This helps the child maintain the quality of life they had during the marriage. In instances where parents were never married, child support helps the child receive support from both parents to help with their day-to-day expenses. 

During the holidays, when money is tight, it’s not uncommon for the supporting parent to fall behind. Here is a closer look at what happens when child support payments are missed.


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When is child support considered late?

Child support orders have due dates on them, and child support is usually considered late if it is not paid on that exact date. However, many courts will be flexible with parents if the payment is just a few days late, particularly if the parent faces unexpected issues, such as their own paycheck getting delayed. Late child support becomes more of a problem in the eyes of the court when it is late on a regular basis or if the parent has left several months unpaid.

How do I deal with back child support?

Serious repercussions are possible if you have back child support that you need to pay. To avoid these, you may want to seek legal help to understand your rights. Some options to handle the back payments include:

  • Setting up a payment schedule – It may not be possible to pay all that you owe at once, so you can request that the court allow you to have a payment schedule to get caught up.
  • Equitable forgiveness – If your child lived with you during a time when you were supposed to pay support, which is common during the holidays, the courts may forgive some of your debt.
  • Settlement – You might be able to request a settlement with the other parent to waive some of what you owe in return for a lump-sum payment.

The options are quite extensive, and knowing which is best is not always easy. Learn more about how to manage custody and child support to avoid getting into this position, and to take the right measures if you do.

What can I do if the child support payment I’m expecting is late or has never been paid?

If you are receiving child support payments, and they are not coming on time, you may have the right to take action against the other parent. The first step is to send a Demand for Child Support Payment Letter. This letter will remind the other parent of their obligations and past-due obligations, then demand payment for the bills that are past due.

If the letter does not work, the next step is to contact the local district attorney or the State Attorney’s office. Consider consulting with a Rocket Lawyer On Call® attorney for advice on how to go about this. Working through proper legal channels will help you protect your rights, and will also help you get the state government involved if further action, such as wage garnishment, is necessary.

What are the consequences for not paying child support?

If you have fallen behind on child support payments, consider working to get caught up as quickly as you can. State and federal laws may allow for the courts to take several measures to get the child support payments caught up. These include:

  • Suspending your licenses – Driver’s licenses, hunting licenses, fishing licenses, and professional licenses can all get suspended for back child support.
  • Wage garnishment – Your back child support may get pulled from your wages by the government.
  • Property seizure – Your property could get seized to pay your back child support.
  • Tax refund seizure – If you get a tax refund, it may get taken to pay what you owe.
  • Jail time – If the courts find you criminally non-compliant with their order, you could go to jail.

To avoid these complications, one option is to petition the court for a change in your child support payments. If your financial situation has changed and you can no longer meet the obligation, the courts may offer relief. The Child Support Review Letter can help you make the formal request needed to have the courts take another look at your child support obligation.

Child support can be a complex world, both for the recipient and the parent who pays. Understanding your rights and obligations will help you avoid legal concerns, while also ensuring you are paid what you are owed in a timely manner.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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