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Penalties for avoiding payment of child support

For parents who fail to make child support parents the consequences can be severe. Federal and state governments, including that of Michigan, have adopted aggressive collection methods, along with penalties that can include jail time, in an effort to ensure non-custodial parents are paying their fair share of the costs involved with raising a child.

FindLaw explains that Michigan’s Office of Child Support and its Friend of the Court have several tools to use in collecting support payments. The agencies can ask courts for a variety of actions against the non-supportive parent, including:

  • Putting a lien on personal property and assets
  • Garnishment of both state and federal income tax refunds
  • Suspension of licenses for driving, hunting and recreational pursuits, as well as passports
  • Withholding support amounts from worker’s compensation and unemployment benefits, as well as any current wages
  • Issuance of an arrest warrant

Before these actions are taken, the court typically holds a contempt hearing on the matter. The court may find the parent in contempt if it concludes that payment has been willfully withheld, meaning that the parent is indeed able to make full or partial payment, but does not. The collection methods above may follow as a result.

Sometimes, a non-custodial parent moves out of state, but this does not end collection efforts. According to the Dept. of Justice, the federal government has made it a crime to move out of the state or country in attempts to avoid paying child support. A non-supportive parent who willfully does not pay support can be prosecuted on misdemeanor charges if the amount owed reaches $5,000 or more or the parent has not made payments for a period of 12 months. The penalty for this misdemeanor is up to six months in prison. Willful non-payment becomes a felony if the amount owed reaches $10,000 within the same, one-year period. Punishment of this crime can be up to two years in prison.

For parents who are struggling to raise a child, the job is made tougher when the other parent fails to pay support. If state agencies are unable to collect missed payments, they can refer parents to the proper federal agency for further action. For those who need help navigating the ins and outs of the system, consult an attorney who specializes in family law.

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Lorrie J. Zahodnic

"I will hold you up until you can stand on your own two feet."

Lorrie J. Zahodnic, P.C. has provided skilled and compassionate legal guidance to Michiganders in family law matters for over 20 years.

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