What happens if a spouse refuses to pay child support?

Pennsylvania child support orders are legal court orders that must be followed. Even if a person's financial situation has completely changed or if the other spouse is withholding the child, a person who is ordered to pay child support must continue to do so. People in those situations can file a motion to modify in court if they need to have the amount reduced.

There are multiple consequences that could happen if someone fails to pay child support. The state can initiate wage withholding through garnishments. Tax refunds could also be withheld or taken in order to pay overdue child support. In some cases, the court could order an individual's financial assets to be garnished by credit unions or banks. Additionally, a person who does not pay child support might lose his or her driver's, hunting, fishing and professional licenses.

People who owe more than $5,000 in back support for over a year potentially face federal criminal prosecution as well. If convicted, people will be ordered to pay the overdue amount as well as additional fines. They might also face imprisonment for up to two years. In addition, people might have liens placed on their property if they fail to pay the amount.

After a divorce, a court may order a noncustodial parent to pay child support each month. Even when financial circumstances have changed, people must continue paying the amount ordered by the court until modifications are made. Conversely, if a person is owed child support and the other parent is refusing to pay, he or she can file a motion for contempt with the court. Each situation is unique, and consulting with a lawyer might prove beneficial in order to address child support concerns.

Source: Child Home and Community, "What happens if I don't pay?", October 22, 2014

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