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Consequences of Missing Child Support Payments

Financial Consequences for Missing Child Support

When a spouse misses child support payments, the party who is entitled to receive child support can institute specific legal actions to enforce the court’s child support orders. These legal actions may allow the party to take the income and assets of a noncompliant spouse directly.

A person who is behind on child support may face the following legal enforcement measures:

  • Income and wage garnishment: Courts may garnish the income, salary, and wages of a spouse who has failed to comply with their child support obligations.
  • Property liens: The party who is supposed to receive child support payments can attach a lien on the noncompliant party’s property, such as their house and personal assets
  • Intercepting tax refunds: To enforce child support, the court can order the interception of the noncomplying spouse’s tax refunds, which will then be applied to satisfy child support arrearages.
  • Suspension of professional and business licenses: A significant method of enforcement involves the judicial suspension of licenses and permits that the noncompliant spouse has. These include licenses to practice law, medicine, account, etc. Additionally, licenses and permits required for the operation of a business may be suspending to coerce compliance with child support obligations.

Civil Contempt of Court

A person who falls behind on child support can be held in contempt of court. Upon dissolution of marriage, courts issue legally enforceable orders—including those regarding the financial support of the parties’ children. If a party violates those orders, the court can hold the offending party in contempt of court. The consequences of being in contempt of court can involve monetary fines and jail time.

A party can request the court to hold a party in contempt of court for missing child support payments. Typically, enforcement of child support involves “civil contempt of court,” where the court is concerned with coercing the contemnor into compliance with their child support obligations.

The features of a civil contempt order are as follows:

  • Conditional jail terms: The noncompliant party can be thrown in jail until they agree to make child support payments. The noncompliant party might be in jail for 1 day or 1 month, depending on when they agree to comply with the court’s orders.
  • Evidentiary standards: A party requesting the court to hold someone in contempt for failing to pay child support must prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence—the evidentiary standard for most civil proceedings.
  • Due process: The party defending against a finding of contempt has the right to receive notice of the contempt proceedings and a hearing where they can defend themselves against their former spouse’s claims.

Criminal Contempt of Court

When the court is concerned with punishing the noncomplying party with a definite jail term, the contempt proceedings take on a criminal character. In such cases, the party defending against a finding of contempt is entitled to greater rights.

The features of a criminal contempt order include:

  • Definite jail terms: A jail term that is long enough to implicate the constitutional protections for criminal defendants will turn a contempt case into a criminal matter.
  • Evidentiary standards: The party seeking enforcement of child support must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, like most criminal matters.
  • Due process: In addition to being entitled to notice and a hearing, the defendant is entitled to the effective assistance of counsel, and enjoys the privilege against self-incrimination.

Hope Law Firm Is Ready To Advise You

Looking for a professional legal advisor to represent you in a legal dispute involving Iowa family law? If so, you need not look further than Hope Law Firm. We are committed to helping residents and their families in Des Moines find fair legal solutions to their family law matters, including those involving the enforcement of child support. You can count on our legal team to deliver personalized legal solutions that address your individual needs.

Please contact Hope Law Firm at (515) 305-2772 or contact our office online for an initial consultation discussing your case today.