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Enforcement or Recovery

Understanding a Contempt Citation

Contempt is the willful disobedience of any lawfully entered court order of which the party has notice.

If a non-custodial parent is facing a contempt citation for failure to pay child support, the court should afford the non-custodial parent the opportunity to hire counsel or have counsel appointed to them before the contempt proceedings. The court may use incarceration (jail sentence) as a contempt sanction for the non-custodial parent’s failure to pay child support so long as they have the financial ability to comply with the order and the delinquency is willful.

Child Support Obligations

It is important to note that a custodial parent’s withholding of parenting time (visitation) does not alleviate the non-custodial parent’s obligation to pay his or her weekly child support obligation. Upon a finding of contempt, the court’s order must allow the non-custodial parent who failed to pay his or her child support obligation to purge themselves of contempt, which would stay the jail sentence.

In addition, after a finding of contempt, the court may order the non-custodial parent’s employer to withhold additional money for their child support arrearage. For instance, if a non-custodial parent has no other dependents (child and/or spouse) and his or her child support arrearage is over 12 weeks, the employer may withhold 65% of the non-custodial parent’s income for each pay period. If the non-custodial parent is unemployed or not subject to income withholding (self-employed), the court may order that the non-custodial parent pay additional money each week towards the outstanding child support arrearage.

A non-custodial parent’s failure to pay child support may result in the following actions:

  • the prosecutor’s office’s involvement (civil and possibly criminally);
  • interception of the non-custodial parent’s federal and state income tax refunds, lottery winnings and insurance settlements;
  • reporting of the non-custodial parent’s child support arrearage to the credit bureaus;
  • suspension of the non-custodial parent’s professional licenses;
  • suspension of the non-custodial parent’s driver’s licenses;
  • liens on the non-custodial parent’s vehicle(s);
  • garnishment of the non-custodial parent’s bank accounts; and/or
  • denial or revoking of the non-custodial parent’s passport.

If the non-custodial parent has been found in contempt, the court may also order the non-custodial parent to pay the custodial parent’s attorney fees.

Custodial parents do not have to wait and/or apply for the Title IV-D prosecutor’s office to become involved in their case to pursue delinquent child support payments. The custodial parent may file a verified motion for contempt, which alleges that the non-custodial parent has failed to make timely child support payments and now has a child support arrearage. After the petition is filed, the court should set a hearing at which the custodial parent will apprise the court of the non-custodial parent’s failure to pay child support. It is important to note that the IV-D prosecutor’s office will only address issues related to child support.

Contact Hains Law, LLC for Assistance in Contempt Matters

Given the aforementioned sanctions associated with a contempt finding for non-payment of child support, non-custodial parents with child support obligations, should contact a Carmel child support attorney with experience in handling these matters. Contact Hains Law, LLC to discuss your options in order to protect your income and freedoms.