Q: What Happens if I Don't Pay Child Support?
A couple who creates a child together, through marriage or not, will often be bound for life through their mutual children's lifetimes. Unlike a couple who splits without having children, they don't make a clean break. If they have minor children, there will be custody issues and on-going decisions about their children's welfare, and the financial obligation of child support.
In Michigan, both parents are responsible to support their minor children even when there is joint custody. Generally, the obligation to pay child support remains in effect until the child turns 18 or if the child is living with the custodial parent but has not graduated high school by that time, then when s/he graduates from high school or reaches the age of 19 1/2 years old. If the parents agree, child support may continue through college.
Once a child support award has been ordered by the court, it can only be changed by a subsequent court order, generally sought when there has been a significant change in the financial situation of the parties. Unfortunately, some parents simply fall delinquent in their payments and rack up child support arrears.
What can happen to the parent who falls behind?
There are many tools available to the Office of Child Support (OCS) in the Michigan Department of Human Services to collect past due child support arrears from delinquent parents and/or penalize them by restricting certain rights and privileges.
Here is a sampling of possible OCS enforcement tools guaranteed to disrupt the life of—if not get payment from-- the delinquent parent:
- A Withholding order directing an employer to withhold wages;
- Access Unemployment, Worker's Compensation, or pension plan benefits;
- Intercept state and federal income tax return refunds;
- Suspend, revoke, deny or restrict the delinquent parent's passport or licenses (including drivers, recreational, professional, or occupational);
- Place liens on the delinquent parent's house and other property (or take the property outright) so it can't be transferred until the lien for arrears has been paid;
- Commence a contempt legal action which can result in a judgment, probation, or even jail time for the delinquent parent.
In light of these enforcement avenues and the complex process of figuring out the proper amount of support in each particular case, parents should seek the counsel of a family law attorney to ensure they are not paying too much or receiving too little in a child support award. The attorney should have extensive experience handling child support matters and should use a dedicated software system that complies with the statewide Child Support Guidelines.
If you are a parent, married or not, that is parting ways with your co-parent through divorce or otherwise, or you need help with the enforcement or modification of an existing child support order, contact the Michigan law firm of Byers & Goulding, PLC at 248.608.4123. We have been exclusively practicing family law in the Tri-County area of Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties, as well as Genesee, Lapeer and Livingston counties for the past 20 years.