Is there a better option to handling missing support payments?


Generally speaking, when a family law judge awards custody of a child to a custodial parent, the noncustodial parent is then ordered to pay child support. Payments are made on a regular basis according to an amount established by the courts.

In just about every state though, there is a penalty for not paying the correct amount or failing to make payments altogether. In some states, like here in North Carolina, this can even lead to jail time depending on the circumstances of the situation.

These penalties are supposed to deter noncustodial parents from ignoring their obligations in the child support order. But what if the penalties are doing the exact opposite? What if sending a parent to jail for delinquent payments is actually causing them inadvertently to miss further payments?

Imagine, for a moment, that you are a parent with a limited education that has been ordered to pay child support. Despite your best efforts, you miss several payments and are sent to jail. After several run-ins with the law, you end up with a felony, which makes you look less attractive to employers. Because of this felony, finding work becomes incredibly difficult, which causes you to fall further behind in payments thus sending you to jail again.

This is one such situation that is common across the nation. Situations such as this raise questions about how state’s currently handle delinquent support payments and whether there are better options state’s could be providing.

Take for example the changes currently taking place in Virginia where the courts, child support enforcement and social service agencies are working together to address the issues that are causing noncustodial parents in their state to fall behind in payments. The agencies help these parents find solutions to their problems, such as providing job training, that often have a more profound effect than jail time.

Whether an option like this could be offered here in North Carolina would heavily depend on current laws and how the courts choose to enforce these laws. It’s because of this uncertainty and the complexity of the law that leads so many noncustodial parents in our state to get help from skilled lawyers in cases like this.

Sources: The Washington Post, “Locking up parents for not paying child support can be a modern-day ‘debtor’s prison’,” Tina Griego, Sept. 26, 2014

The North Carolina Division of Social Services, “How to Get Help & Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs),” Accessed Oct. 1, 2014