Ensuring that children receive the financial support they need is of paramount importance, and child support plays a crucial role in providing for their well-being. However, despite legal obligations, some parents may fall behind on their child support payments, causing financial strain on the custodial parent and the child. In North Carolina, parents have a range of enforcement options available to pursue when facing unpaid child support. Phillips & McCrea, PLLC, is here to guide you through these options and help you understand the requirements for enforcing child support in North Carolina.
Enforcement Options for Unpaid Child Support
Income Withholding Orders:
One of the most effective methods for enforcing child support is through income withholding orders. This process involves deducting the required child support amount directly from the non-custodial parent’s paycheck. Income withholding orders are typically initiated through the court or the North Carolina Child Support Services (CSS) agency. The withheld amount is then sent to the custodial parent to provide financial support for the child.
Contempt of Court:
If a non-custodial parent willfully and consistently fails to make child support payments, they can be held in contempt of court. This legal action can lead to penalties such as fines, probation, or even imprisonment. However, it is crucial to establish that the non-payment was deliberate and not due to genuine financial hardship.
North Carolina has the authority to suspend various licenses of a parent who persistently refuses to pay child support. This can include driver’s licenses, professional licenses, and recreational licenses. License suspension is an effective enforcement tool, as it puts significant pressure on the non-custodial parent to meet their financial obligations.
Liens and Seizure of Assets:
Another enforcement option available in North Carolina is the placement of liens on the non-paying parent’s property or assets. This could include their home, vehicle, or bank accounts. In some cases, the state may also seize certain assets to satisfy the unpaid child support debt.
Intercepting Tax Refunds:
The state of North Carolina has the authority to intercept the tax refunds of non-compliant parents to collect overdue child support payments. This method can be particularly effective since tax refunds are often substantial and can help cover a significant portion of the unpaid amount.
If a parent owes a substantial amount of child support, the U.S. State Department can deny or revoke their passport. This measure can be taken to encourage compliance with child support obligations and discourage international flight from responsibilities.
Requirements for Enforcing Child Support in North Carolina
Child Support Order:
To begin the process of enforcing child support, there must be a valid child support order in place. This order is typically issued during divorce proceedings or when establishing paternity. It outlines the amount of child support to be paid and the payment schedule.
Non-Payment or Arrears:
Enforcement options are only applicable when the non-custodial parent fails to make child support payments as per the court order or is significantly behind in their payments. The non-custodial parent must be in arrears to qualify for enforcement measures.
Collaboration with North Carolina Child Support Services (CSS):
In many cases, it is beneficial to work with North Carolina CSS, which can facilitate the enforcement process. CSS can help establish paternity, locate non-custodial parents, and enforce child support orders.
Evidence of Non-Payment:
When pursuing enforcement measures, it is crucial to provide evidence of non-payment or arrears. This can include payment records, communication with the non-custodial parent, or any other relevant documentation.
In some instances, court involvement may be necessary to initiate enforcement actions. Working with an experienced family law attorney from Phillips & McCrea, PLLC, can ensure that your case is presented effectively in court.
Modifying Child Support Orders
In some situations, the non-custodial parent may genuinely face financial hardships that prevent them from meeting their child support obligations. In such cases, it may be necessary to seek a modification of the child support order. Phillips & McCrea, PLLC, can assist you in presenting evidence of a significant change in circumstances, such as job loss, reduced income, or medical issues, which justifies a reduction in the child support amount.
It’s essential to understand that modifying a child support order is a legal process and requires court approval. Until the court approves the modification, the existing child support order remains in effect, and non-payment may still lead to enforcement actions. Therefore, it is vital to promptly pursue a modification if you experience a substantial change in your financial situation.
Negotiating Repayment Plans
If the non-custodial parent falls behind on child support due to temporary financial difficulties, negotiating a repayment plan may be an option. Repayment plans allow the non-custodial parent to catch up on missed payments over a specified period. This approach can be beneficial when the non-custodial parent is committed to fulfilling their financial responsibilities but needs some flexibility to do so.
Enforcement Across State Lines
In today’s mobile society, parents may live in different states, and enforcement of child support across state lines can present challenges. Thankfully, North Carolina is a participant in the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), which allows for the enforcement of child support orders in different states. Through UIFSA, child support agencies in different states can work together to ensure the non-custodial parent fulfills their obligations, regardless of where they reside.
If you are facing challenges with unpaid child support or require assistance in enforcing child support in North Carolina, don’t hesitate to reach out to Phillips & McCrea, PLLC. Our experienced family law attorneys are well-versed in the complexities of child support enforcement and can provide you with the guidance and support you need. Together, we can work towards securing the financial stability and well-being of your child. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and take the first step towards resolving your child support concerns.