Possible Consequences of Failing to Pay Child Support in a New York Family Law Case

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When the parents of one or more children divorce, courts in New York are typically required to issue an order regarding the non-custodial parent’s obligation to make payments for the support of the children. Failing to pay child support is therefore a violation of a court order, even when the parties to a divorce agree to the terms of child support. Courts in this state have broad powers to enforce child support obligations under § 454 of the Family Court Act (FCA). New York’s Child Support Enforcement Unit (CSEU) is authorized to bring enforcement actions in this state against non-custodial parents with child support obligations. In some cases, non-payment of child support can result in jail time, but New York provides multiple methods for the enforcement and collection of amounts owed.

Jail Sentences

A jail sentence is an extreme penalty for a failure to pay child support. It is often reserved for obligors who have substantial arrearages, or who have failed to obey prior enforcement orders. In a recent case involving a celebrity obligor, a New York court released a well-known rapper from jail after he served two months in connection with an alleged $400,000 child support debt. Another rapper was arrested for non-payment of child support, and while media reports did not state how much he allegedly owed, the court set his bond at over $480,000.

Under the FCA, only obligors who “willfully” fail to obey a support order may be subject to jail time. However, § 454(3)(a) of the FCA states that “failure to pay support, as ordered, shall constitute prima facie evidence of a willful violation,” which seems to place most cases of non-payment in the “willful” category. An obligor may present evidence to rebut this presumption of willfulness and to offer alternative methods of payment. In another celebrity case, a former professional basketball player turned over a house to the custodial parent to settle a $900,000 child support arrearage.

Money Judgments, Liens, Garnishment, and Asset Seizures

The primary goal of child support enforcement is to recover the amount of child support owed. A New York court can issue a money judgment against an obligor for an arrearage amount, which the custodial parent can enforce like any other judgment, such as by having the obligor’s non-exempt assets seized or by placing a judgment lien in the public record. Unpaid judgments may also be reported to the major credit bureaus.

New York law also allows for wage garnishment, by which an employer deducts periodic child support amounts, including arrearages, from an obligor’s paychecks.

The New York Tax Department is authorized to intervene in child support cases, either by collecting arrearage amounts directly from an obligor or by intercepting an obligor’s tax refund and deducting any amounts owed.

In some cases, a court can order an obligor to post a cash amount as a sort of bond. The court would deduct child support payments from the cash deposit to send to the obligee.

Other Enforcement Methods

The FCA allows a court to order the suspension of an obligor’s driver’s license if it finds the obligor to be in arrears in an amount equal to or greater than four months of child support payments. This also applies to an obligor’s professional, occupational, business, or recreational licenses.

A New York family court proceeding, such as a divorce, an action to determine child support, or an action to enforce a support obligation, can present a wide range of challenges. It therefore requires extensive preparation and careful planning. In order to make sure your interests are fully represented, you consult with a knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney as soon as possible. Child support attorney Ingrid Gherman has over 30 years’ experience advocating for people in New York City courts. Contact us online or at (212) 941-0767 today to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your case.

More Blog Posts:

Federal Legislation Would Expand Ability of State Child Support Agencies to Obtain Credit Reports for Non-Paying Parents, New York Divorce Attorney Blog, November 2, 2015

New York Lawsuit Accuses Parent of Obtaining Information to Use In Child Support Modification Case by Hacking, New York Divorce Attorney Blog, October 22, 2015

Calculating Child Support Obligations in New York Divorce Cases, New York Divorce Attorney Blog, October 12, 2015


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