Penalties in Virginia for Not Paying Child Support

Virginia child support laws impose an obligation on both parents to support their child. The obligation does not end when parents who are married to each other separate or get a divorce or when unmarried couples no longer live together. Judges issue child support orders as part of divorce proceedings or when a petition is filed in a child custody or child support case. When the parent ordered to pay fails to do so, the other parent has several remedies, including requesting Virginia child support penalties. Additional remedies may be available when the non-paying parent is in the military.

Enforcing Virginia Child Support Laws

Agreements made between parents regarding child support cannot be enforced in the courts through Virginia child support penalties without a court order directing that payment be made. Support orders may be enforced through the courts or they may be enforced through the administrative remedies of the Virginia Department of Child Support Enforcement.

DCSE is authorized to collect child support payments from parents and enforce support orders when parents stop paying. The DCSE uses several administrative penalties to enforce child support orders, including:

  • Wage withholding: A wage withholding order directs an employer to withhold the amount of child support from the wages of parents who fail to pay. The money withheld is sent to the DCSE and forwarded by it to the parent entitled to receive it.
  • Intercept state and federal income tax refunds: A parent who falls behind in making support payments may have their income tax refunds intercepted and applied toward the unpaid support. This procedure also applies to parents lucky enough to win a lottery prize in the commonwealth but unlucky enough to have the prize money intercepted and applied toward payment of their child support arrears.
  • Driver’s license suspension: The commonwealth has the power to suspend the driver’s license of parents who fail to meet their support obligations. Restoration of driving privileges is subject to payment of the arrears.
  • Property liens and executions: A lien for child support arrears may be placed against title to real or personal property owned by the parent in default. DCSE may also seize assets of a parent through a property execution to pay what is owed.

If a parent who fails to pay according to a child support order receives Social Security disability benefits, courts have the authority to apply them toward the arrears. Something that parents ordered to pay support should keep in mind is that arrears cannot be discharged as a debt in a bankruptcy proceeding.

Putting a Non-paying Parent in Jail

Use of incarceration as a penalty for non-payment of child support can be counterproductive so courts in Newport News or other Hampton Road communities limit its use. Courts distinguish between an inability to pay and a willful refusal to pay. It would be unfair to impose Virginia child support penalties on a parent whose lack of education makes it difficult to find a new job after a layoff at work. Throwing that person in jail makes it impossible for the person to pay the support while incarcerated.

Holding a parent in contempt of court and putting the person in jail for resigning from a job for no reason other than to avoid paying child support may be justified. In addition to charging parents with civil contempt for willfully refusing to pay child support, they can also be charged with committing a criminal offense.

Parents should seek child support legal representation from a family law firm to avoid the risk of going to jail when unable to pay support. A parent may be referred by the court to the Intensive Case Monitoring Program as an alternative to incarceration. The program offers services to participants to remove obstacles preventing them from meeting their support obligations. Some of these obstacles include:

  • Substance abuse
  • Lack of education
  • Lack of employable skills
  • Language difficulties

The program offers services to remove the barriers to make it possible for the person to obtain gainful employment and resume making support payments.

Enforcing Child Support Orders Against Member of the Military

When a parent ordered to pay child support is in the military, the other parent has payment and enforcement options in addition to those available against non-military parents. As long as there is a valid court order awarding child support, the parent entitled to receive it may request direct payment from the military by contacting the Defense Finance and Accounting Service.

The DFAS needs a copy of the original court order directing the military member to pay child support. It also requires a separate court order that directs the government to withhold the child support payment the pay of the military member and send the payment to the parent owed the money. A child support attorney can help parents get withholding orders, so they need not rely upon the paying parent to send them the money.

A parent owed child support arrears from someone serving in the military in Newport News should contact the non-paying parent’s commanding officer. Although the military cannot enforce a child support order, commanding officers can assert pressure in the form of disciplinary action against the parent for not meeting child support obligations. Commanding officers also may threaten to reduce the person’s military pay by the amount received as an allowance for the support of dependents.

Modifying Child Support Orders

Instead of leaving themselves open to the dire consequences by not complying with a support order, parents in Williamsburg or Poquoson should consult with experienced child support lawyers. Virginia child support laws allow a parent to petition a court to modify child support orders upon a change of circumstances.

The loss of a job, a cut in pay, illness or injury, or other factors arising in the life of a parent should be discussed with a child support attorney before the person defaults. Courts expedite hearings on modification petitions filed on behalf of active-duty members of the military or those in the reserves.

Speak to a Child Support Attorney

Parents living in the Hampton Roads region in need of child support legal representation have relied upon the attorneys at the Denbigh Law Center for trusted advice and guidance since 1982. Contact them today for a consultation by calling 757-877-2244.