It is a sad fact that sometimes, noncustodial parents fail to pay court-ordered child support following a divorce or other court proceeding establishing a payment obligation. If you have not been receiving child support to which you are entitled, what can you do? The good news is that South Carolina takes child support enforcement very seriously, and the law offers a variety of options aimed at compelling compliance.
Of course, if your circumstances permit, it may be best to begin by contacting the noncustodial parent directly. Whether this strategy is effective will of course depend on the relationship between the two parents. You may find out that the parent who is not paying is undergoing a temporary financial setback. Keep in mind that visitation and support are two separate issues. That is, someone ordered to pay child support cannot refuse to pay it to gain leverage in a visitation dispute, or in an effort to obtain additional visitation or custody rights.
Rule to Show Cause Hearing
Assuming dealing directly with your ex-spouse or other parent is not feasible, your best course of action is to consult a family lawyer for help. Pursuant to South Carolina’s child support statute, your attorney may petition the family court on your behalf to enforce the child support order. The mechanism for doing so is a rule to show cause hearing. The non-paying parent will be ordered to appear at this hearing and explain why he or she has failed to make the required payments. Thereafter, if warranted by changed circumstances, the court may modify the support order. Otherwise, a variety of remedies are available to compel payment. In each instance, the availability of each remedy depends on how much the support arrearage is and the length of time support payments have been missed. (See, e.g., South Carolina’s DSS Child Support Services website.)
- Income withholding. Similar to wage garnishment, child support is automatically deducted from the non-paying parent’s wages.
- Seizing all or part of the non-paying parent’s state or federal income tax refunds.
- Offsetting overdue support from unemployment benefits or other government benefits paid to the non-paying parent.
- Placing liens on the non-paying parent’s accounts with bank and other financial institutions, and on property or other assets.
- Reporting past-due child support obligations to credit reporting agencies, thereby negatively affecting the non-paying parent’s credit rating.
- Preventing the non-paying parent from renewing his or her passport.
- Revoking or suspending the non-paying parent’s driver’s, occupational, professional, business, or commercial licenses.
The court also has the authority to fine a non-paying parent up to $1,500, and sentence him or her to up to a year in prison. Keep in mind, however, that a non-paying parent will not be able to make payments from jail. Furthermore, suspending business or professional licenses will make it more difficult for a non-paying parent to earn money to meet support obligations.
Consult a Greenville Family Lawyer
If you have not been receiving child support to which you are entitled, an experienced family lawyer can help. If, on the other hand, you are unable to meet existing support obligations, a skilled Greenville family lawyer can help you petition the court to modify your support order based on changed circumstances. Attorney Robert Clark is a lifelong resident of Greenville and concentrates on compassionate representation of clients in family court. Contact Robert today for a consultation.