The answer to this question is YES! If you have been served with an Order to Show Cause regarding your child support obligation, you could be found guilty of criminal contempt and possibly receive an active jail sentence.
I have years of experience in the Wake County Child Support Enforcement courtroom and I have helped hundreds of individuals who are behind in their child support and facing potential jail time. During these years, I have come into contact with many individuals and many different circumstances.
People fall behind in their child support for various reasons, such as unemployment, change in employment, health issues and unfortunately, refusal to pay their child support obligation. More than not, unemployment or changes in employment are the cause for many child support arrears cases.
More than not, unemployment or changes in employment are the cause for many child support arrears cases.
What To Do If You Fall Behind on Child Support Payments
If you find yourself falling behind in your monthly child support obligation due to employment issues or health issues there are actions that you can take to try and prevent from being held in contempt and serving an active jail sentence.
First of all, don’t assume that just because you can’t meet your full child support obligation, that it is acceptable to pay NOTHING at all toward this obligation.
A judge is going to look at your case more favorably if they can see that you have made a good faith effort to pay something toward your obligation each month. Judges do not look favorably upon individuals who come to court crying and complaining that they lost their job or they can’t find a job, yet they are dressed in the best clothes and looking at their iPhone while in court, yet they haven’t paid a dime toward their child support obligation in six months. That is one of the quickest ways to find yourself trading those nice clothes in for a striped jump suit and using the jail phone to make any and all of your phone calls.
Second, if your employment circumstances have changed, FILE A MOTION TO MODIFY CHILD SUPPORT.
I don’t know how many times I have met with individuals and they tell me that they lost their job over a year ago or they have a job, but their income is half of what it was when this child support order went into place. Please understand that a child support order will not be reduced or even considered for such until the obligated party files a motion to modify child support. Don’t wait two years to file such a motion, file it as soon as your circumstances change. If you don’t do anything, the ongoing support keeps piling up and you are going to find yourself with a large number of arrears and you may potentially end up in jail.
Third, always keep in touch with your case worker and keep them updated on your situation.
Always inform them of any address or telephone number changes. If you are upfront and honest with them and let them know what your situation is, they are more likely to work with you and not ask that the judge find you in contempt. If you are unemployed, then you better be looking for a job and you need to be able to show the judge that you have been such a thing. If you are a resident of Wake County and you are a father, you may be eligible to participate in some programs, such as Fathers Forever, where you can find employment.
Do You Have to Pay Child Support if You Get Sick?
If you find that you are behind in child support because you can no longer work because of some medical issue or you have a medical leave from work due to an illness, make sure that you get some documentation from your doctor or the hospital where you are being treated. Your case worker and the judge are going to want to see any documentation that can prove that you are not able to work or whatever the situation may be.
Also, if you have filed for social security disability benefits, you will be expected to provide this documentation to your case worker and the judge so that you might have your case continued or a disposed of in a way that doesn’t result in contempt and jail time.
Refusing To Pay Child Support
If you are one of these individuals that just refuses to pay your child support obligation and you have no reason for being in arrears, then you need to either come to court with enough money to pay for your outstanding arrears or come prepared to go to jail, because a judge is not going to tolerate such disregard of your obligation to take care of your child or children. For those in need, check out the Child Support Network.
If you are behind on your child support obligation and are due in a North Carolina court regarding such call 919-615-2473 to contact the attorneys of Kirk, Kirk, Howell, Cutler & Thomas, L.L.P. to discuss your situation.
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