Consequences for Non-Payment of Child Support

Failure to pay child support has very serious consequences to the non-paying party.  Many of the consequences are financial in nature.  However, some cases can result in jail for contempt of court.  Other more egregious cases may result in criminal charges and potential prison under the Federal Deadbeat Parent Punishment Act.

Order of Back Support to the Date of Birth

The Court will order the payment of back child support (aka child support arrearages) all the way back to the birth of the child.  In addition, the child support belongs to the child so the child even after turning 18 may bring an action for support.  The child has 7 years to bring the action after turning 18.  In short, the financial obligation on unpaid back child support can be enormous.

New Mexico Child Support Enforcement is very aggressive and effective at going after back child support.  Once on the case, they will go after every dime owed.  In addition, the burden is on the alleged non-paying parent to prove that he or she did pay child support as ordered.  Therefore, as time passes, it becomes harder and harder to do this for the alleged non-paying party.

Payment typically must be proven by cancelled checks, money order receipts, employment pay-stubs showing withholding, cash signed receipts, bank statements or anything else that will show that support was paid.  Failure to provide proof of payment will generally result in  denial of credit for any unproven prior payments.

Potential Jail Time and Fines

In the event that it is found that a parent has not paid support as ordered, Federal and New Mexico child support laws include numerous methods for collecting back child support payments. There is both a Federal Deadbeat Parent Punishment Act and a comparable New Mexico Deadbeat Parent Act.  These methods invoke very serious consequences for the non-payment of support.

In addition, the Court Order of Child Support is enforceable through contempt proceedings.  This means that the state court judge can hold the non-paying parent in contempt for violation of the order.  A finding of contempt can result in immediate jail time.  In addition, the jail time can be indefinite since the person can be held until the contempt is cured (i.e. child support is paid according to the order).

Many non-paying parents have wrongfully believed that a judge will not throw them in jail.  Many of them have been quite surprised by this outcome.

Many Other Possible Consequences for Non-Payment of Child Support

The means available to Child Support Enforcement  for the collection of child support and back child support include:

  • The Garnishment of wages,
  • Revoking the driver‘s license, occupational license, and/or professional license of the non-paying parent,
  • Intercepting unemployment compensation checks and federal and state tax refunds, (Note: even if the non-custodial parent (NCP) is making current child support payments his or her tax refund check may still be intercepted to meet unpaid back child support obligations.)
  • The placement of liens on the assets of the non-paying parent,
  • Denying the non-paying parent a passport,
  • The enforcement of jail time for the non-paying parent,
  • Inclusion on New Mexico‘s 25 most wanted for non-payment of child support posters.

An Experienced Attorney Can be Helpful

The consequences can be severe in these situations from top to bottom.  If you are facing a situation like this, particularly in the fairly common event that you are being wrongfully accused of not paying support, you should immediately seek the advice of an attorney experienced in child support.

If you cannot afford an attorney, you should contact Child Support Enforcement directly to try to address the problem.  Avoiding addressing the issue, Child Support Enforcement Division or the Court will do you no good and will likely make things much worse.

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