Child custody and support issues are handled best in family court. There, you and your child’s other parent can determine if one of you will get primary physical custody and the other will get visitation, or if one of you will have sole legal custody or you will both share legal custody. The court will also determine if the non-custodial parent shall pay the custodial parent child support to help with the expenses of raising the child. The child support payment is determined by calculation based on figures such as the parent’s income, child care costs, the number of children in the household, and any additional expenses that the parents will pay. The state’s Child Support Guidelines gives a thorough explanation of how much support will be ordered to pay. But what happens if the non-custodial parent does not pay anything?
How to Collect Child Support Arrears
State and federal laws allow the family court and the Child Support Services Division (CSSD) to determine ways of collecting past due child support. One option involves an Order to Show Cause, which requires the non-custodial parent to appear in court and make a case as to why payment has not been made. There are, however, alternate ways to obtain payment. Some of the approaches CSSD may take include:
- Withholding income: CSSD has the ability to garnish the non-custodial parent’s wages. If the non-custodial parent changes employers, he or she must notify CSSD of the change so that the new employer can start withholding income.
- Revoking or Suspending a License: The non-custodial parent’s driver’s license or other professional license can be suspended or revoked. The license can only be reinstated after the arrears have been paid in full. The non-custodial parent will receive a notice about the license suspension/revocation 45 days in advance, which will give him or her time to contact CSSD to devise a payment plan in order to avoid losing his or her license.
- Seizure of federal or state tax refund: If the non-custodial parent owes $150 in child support payments and the custodial parent is on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) assistance, or if the non-custodial parent owes $500 in past-due payments and the custodial parent does not receive TANF assistance, the non-custodial parent’s federal tax refund can be appropriated to cover the arrearage. Similarly, a non-custodial parent’s state tax refund can be seized if he or she is three months behind and owes $100 in past-due payments.
- Garnish of Unemployment Insurance Benefits: These benefits can be seized to pay arrears.
For an all-inclusive list of ways CSSD can collect child support arrears, consult the CSSD’s website.
Order to Show Cause Hearing
According to Rule 14 of the South Carolina courts website, “[t]he rule to show cause provided herein is for contempt of court arising from failure to comply with the Court’s orders, decrees or judgments and for enforcement thereof. This form of contempt is known as constructive contempt of court.” If a non-custodial parent is not making child support payments according to the orders of the court, he or she can be ordered to appear in a hearing to explain why the payments are behind. The non-custodial parent must provide a reason that the court determines is credible for failing to make the payments. If the court does accept the reason, it will work with CSSD to come up with another option that the non-custodial parent can use to make payments.
If the non-custodial parent cannot come up with an explanation that the court views as valid, he or she could face a judgement involving fines up to $1,500 and a jail sentence of up to a year. Additionally, if the non-custodial parent fails to show up to the hearing to show cause, the court will issue a bench warrant for his or her arrest.
Do Not Withhold Visitation
If your child’s parent owes child support arrears, causing you to be the sole responsible party when it comes to your child’s food and clothes, you may feel stressed and angry. You may think it is unfair if, for example, the other parent has joint legal custody with you and is allowed to help make decisions regarding the child’s well-being, but cannot seem to come up with the money to financially support the child. Understandably, you may want to get revenge; however, it is imperative that you do not take matters into your own hands. If the parenting plan that exists between you and your child’s other parent was issued and approved by the South Carolina family court, it may only be modified by petition to the court. You are unable to modify it on your own. Specifically, you should refrain from:
- Taking away visitation rights from your child’s other parent;
- Taking away modes of contact, such as the telephone calls, between your child and the non-custodial parent;
- Telling the non-custodial parent that you will reinstate visitation rights once child support arrears have been paid; and/or
- Trying to modify child support payments on your own.
If your child support payments are in arrears, you should contact Robert Clark to help represent you in court to get them back on track. Similarly, if you want to modify your custody arrangements, you should discuss changes with your attorney, who can advise you about your situation.
Contact Robert Clark – An Experienced, Compassionate Family Law Attorney
Seeing your child be done wrong is all it takes for most parents to fly off the handle. If your child is suffering because his or her other parent is behind on child support payments, you will likely want the situation remedied immediately. The best way to get child support payments back on track is to work with a skilled Greenville, SC family law attorney. Robert Clark has years of experience with the family courts; as a lifelong Greenville resident, he can provide the understanding and education needed to help you keep your cool while you fight for what is legally owed to you. Call Robert Clark today to help you with your case.