Failure to pay child support: Penalties and options
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Failure to pay child support: Penalties and options

On Behalf of | Nov 5, 2021 | Child Support |

In Georgia, when a parent is ordered to pay child support, he or she is expected to do so on time and in full. Unfortunately, some parents do not pay what they owe and legal problems will ensue. For noncustodial parents who are delinquent in their payments, a variety of penalties can be assessed. This tends to make a complex situation worse. Not only does failing to make child support payments have the potential to cause a litany of problems for the child, it can also create a rift between the parents and complicate what is frequently a tense relationship to begin with. The parent who has failed to make the payments could face a driver’s license suspension and even incarceration. The Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) in Georgia strives to avoid penalizing parents who are not making their child support payments and find alternatives to help them.

Driver’s license suspensions can happen with delinquent child support

For those who are delinquent in their child support payments, a commonly used punishment is a driver’s license suspension. This will occur if the person is at least 60 days behind on their child support. Losing a driver’s license can negatively impact a person’s life in myriad ways, hindering their ability to work and diminishing their prospects even further. A reinstatement is possible if the person adheres to certain criteria.

If a person tells DCSS that they are confronted by employment issues and their income is reduced or eliminated, there are still ways to avoid a license suspension. Verifiable information must be provided to the DCSS. There can be an enforcement deferral to prevent the penalties from being assessed immediately. Parents are now given 60 to 90 calendar days to deal with their lapse in paying child support.

In some instances, there can even be a modification of the order itself. Parents can avoid a suspension by paying what they owe; paying 20% of the past due amount if they have reached the threshold for a suspension; paying triple what is owed currently and is past due; making a purge payment; verifying that the person now has a job; taking part in the Fatherhood Program; providing information that the person is now receiving Social Security benefits; or medical proof that the person is unable to work.

What the Parental Accountability Court offers

Understanding the Parental Accountability Court program is important for the custodial and noncustodial parent as it provides options to become current in child support and avoid the harsh penalties for non-payment. Because a person who is held in contempt and subject to incarceration will likely face even more hardship through various fees and being unable to work, the Parental Accountability Court helps those who are delinquent with getting back on track.

This is accomplished with judicial intervention, education on the importance of accountability and helping with finding steady employment and education services. Often, people run into roadblocks in making their payments because of personal or professional problems. For example, a person dealing with substance abuse can receive treatment for it. If the person cannot find suitable employment, there are programs that can be helpful with training, coaching and guidance.

Professional assistance is key with child support issues

Regardless of the perspective, people should know how to address problems related to child support. A parent who believes that the payments are too high or their circumstances have created a budget crunch should not simply stop paying as this can lead to legal sanctions. When payments are not made, the penalties can be challenging and escalate to make the terrain seem untenable with no way out. For the custodial parent, not getting the payments can spark worry with making ends meet. With child support and any other family law consideration, it is useful to have professional guidance to find workable solutions. This can be accomplished through negotiation or by using the various avenues available through DCSS and the court. Having advice is essential from the start and might help with forging a workable solution.