What Contempt for Not Paying Child Support Means
When child support orders are issued in Arizona, the party ordered to pay child support must meet their financial obligations for support of the minor child or children or face contempt for not paying child support. Child support orders include the monthly payment amount that the paying parent must pay to the other parent.
These orders also include information regarding which parent will be responsible for paying for the child’s monthly health insurance cost and how uncovered medical expenses and extracurricular expenses will be allocated.
When a parent fails to pay his or her child support obligation, is consistently late, or makes partial payments, the other parent can seek to enforce the child support order by filing a motion to hold the payor parent in contempt of court.
If the court finds that the payor knew about the support order and had the financial ability to make the payment but intentionally refused to do so, he or she can be held in contempt of court.
If you are not receiving the child support payments that were ordered, are unable to make child support payments that you have been ordered to pay, or have received notice that a contempt action has been filed against you, you should talk to an experienced child support lawyer at the Law Office of Daniel Hutto.
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The Process to Hold a Parent in Contempt for Non-payment of Child Support
When a parent has missed child support payments that have been ordered by the court, your attorney can pursue enforcement action on your behalf to recuperate the outstanding balance owed to you, plus potential interest. To enforce a child support order, you will need to start by filing a petition for contempt and/or enforcement in the court that issued the order. ARS 25-320
When you file the petition for contempt/enforcement, the court will issue an order to appear and schedule a contempt hearing. Once you receive the order to appear, you must have it served on the other parent along with a copy of your underlying contempt petition.
Remember, you will be required to appear at the scheduled hearing.
The non-paying parent will likely be found to be in contempt for non-payment of child support, can be sanctioned, and a warrant may be issued for his or her arrest
If the non-paying parent fails to appear for the hearing, the court can move forward with the hearing in his or her absence. In that situation, the non-paying parent will likely be found to be in contempt for non-payment of child support, can be sanctioned, and a warrant may be issued for his or her arrest.
Even if the non-paying parent does not show up for the contempt hearing, you may still have to prove that the other parent knew about the child support order, was able to pay it, but intentionally and willfully refused to pay the child support.
You should hire an experienced child support lawyer to ensure you are properly represented in any contempt and/or enforcement action. Speak with our highly skilled legal team to help gather and present evidence to meet your burden of proof for each of these elements.
Penalties for Not Paying Child Support
If a parent is held in contempt of court, he or she may be sentenced to serve time in jail. The court can order other penalties, including a driver’s license suspension or a professional license suspension. If the non-paying parent is sentenced to jail, the court will order a lump sum payment, called a “purge payment,” be paid in order to be released from jail.
If a parent is held in contempt of court, he or she may be sentenced to serve time in jail.
The parent will be able to be released from jail by paying the purge payment. This payment may not be for the total amount of child support that is owed, but rather, for a portion of the outstanding balance.
If a criminal case is filed, the process will be different. Criminal matters are filed and prosecuted by a county or state attorney. A violation of the criminal statute must be proved by the prosecutor beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a higher burden of proof than what is required for proving civil contempt.
Child Support, Parenting Time, and Visitation
Some parents think that not paying child support is allowable when the other parent has denied them access to visits or parenting time with their children. However, child support and visitation are looked at separately, and a parent cannot stop paying child support because he or she is not receiving parenting time.
On the other hand, a parent cannot withhold parenting time because the other parent is not paying his or her court-ordered child support.
If your parenting time is being withheld, you should continue making your child support payments and immediately talk to an experienced attorney about obtaining help to enforce your parenting time rights.
Recovering Back Child Support with a Wage Assignment
If you are owed back support, you can also file a request with the court to receive a wage assignment under A.R.S. § 25-504. This is a court order that requires the non-paying parent’s employer to withhold payments, also known as garnish wages, for child support from his or her paycheck.
The employer will then remit the money withheld from the parent’s paycheck to the Child Support Clearinghouse. The Clearinghouse will then send the payments to the parent who should be receiving those.
If the other parent changes jobs after you have secured a wage assignment, you can send a copy of the wage assignment to the new employer so that child support will continue to be withheld from his or her paychecks with the new employer.
If the other parent is self-employed, or you do not know where he or she works, you can pursue a garnishment and execution action.
Under A.R.S. § 25-508, the law allows you to garnish the bank or investment accounts of the non-paying parent for the child support that you are owed.
Garnishment and Execution
Under A.R.S. § 25-508, the law allows you to garnish the bank or investment accounts of the non-paying parent for the child support that you are owed. Since garnishment actions are complex, you should work with an experienced child support lawyer to successfully receive the money owed to you.
If the non-paying parent has assets that could be seized for the money that you are owed, you can request the court to issue a writ of execution. If this is ordered by the court, it will direct the sheriff’s office to seize assets from the non-paying parent.
The assets will then be auctioned off to pay for the back-child support amount that is owed.
What if You Lose Your Job and Can’t Pay Child Support Payments?
If you happen to lose your job, you can file a petition for modification of child support and request the court modify the child support order. You cannot stop making your payments because you lose your job. Child support obligations do not go away, and the back-pay amounts, or arrears, will continue to build.
If you do not take quick action, you risk being held in contempt of court or facing other sanctions. In most cases, a job loss will be an adequate reason for requesting a reduction of your child support. In some cases, you might secure a stay of your child support payments or a retroactive reimbursement for your payments from the date of filing for the modification. A stay of your child support payments is a temporary pause of your child support obligation.
You cannot stop making your payments because you lose your job. Child support obligations do not go away, and the back-pay amounts, or arrears, will continue to build.
Defending Against a Petition for Contempt
If you fail to comply with a child support order, you may be held to be in contempt of court. Failing to make your child support payments can result in civil or criminal penalties, including the potential for jail.
Each family law attorney from the Law Office of Daniel Hutto is experienced in handling contempt of court matters in Arizona. Properly defending against these types of cases might help you to avoid jail time while helping you to catch up on your child support payments moving forward.
Working with an experienced child support lawyer is critical if you are served with a petition for contempt and an order to appear for not paying alimony or not paying child support.
In Arizona, the courts treat child support matters very seriously. If you have sincerely been trying to pay your child support, there may be some defenses that are available to you. The first thing that you should do is to begin making your payments as soon as you can. Even sending partial payments might demonstrate to the court that you are making an effort to pay and could help you to avoid a potential jail sentence.
If you experienced a substantial change in your financial circumstances since the child support order was issued, an attorney might be able to show the court that you could not make your child support payments by no fault of your own. This could include presenting evidence of unemployment or underemployment along with a plan to help you to make your payments in the future. In this type of scenario, filing a motion to reduce or stay your child support obligation might also be in order.
Get help from the Law Office of Daniel Hutto
Whether you need help with child support enforcement or are facing potential sanctions for failing to pay child support, getting help from an experienced child support lawyer at the Law Office of Daniel Hutto is the best course of action.
Contact us today at 602.536.7878 to request a free consultation.
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