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What if My Ex Won’t Pay Child Support?

Posted by Susan M. Gibson | Sep 16, 2022

When a judge orders child support, it must be paid until it's terminated or modified by the court. If your ex refuses or cannot pay child support for any reason, they may accumulate outstanding payments. They may even face wage garnishment or contempt for disobeying a court order.

PA Law & Child Support

According to Pennsylvania law (Title 231 Chapter 1910), both parents must financially support their children. In most situations, the parent with the lower amount of custodial time pays child support to the other parent.

If child custody is split evenly, the parent who earns more income may be required to pay support payments to the other parent.

While child support is paid to their parent, it belongs to the child. A parent cannot waive it. The money is used for a child's food, education, clothing, shelter, and other needs.

Is Child Support Necessary?

Financial support for a child is always necessary. When parents reside in the same home with their children, the children became used to a certain standard of living provided by the joint income of both parents.

When parents move into separate homes, the Court does not want to see the children's standard of living decrease so often one parent will have to pay child support to the other.

Deviations from Child Support Guidelines

Most parents in Pennsylvania pay child support based on legal guidelines. Child support guidelines are based on parents' combined adjusted net income and the number of children involved in the support order.

Adjustments to the guideline amount of support will be made to apportion certain expenses for the children between the parties, like health insurance premiums and childcare costs.

Under certain circumstances the Court can also apportion extravagant expenses like elite sports, private school, elite music lessons, overnight summer camps, etc.

The Court has the power to deviate from the guidelines but deviations are rare.

What Happens If My Ex Doesn't Pay Child Support?

If your child's dad or mom won't make child support payments, it is considered contempt of the court's order, and they may face harsh penalties. You have options to get the money they owe your child. You can contact a child support lawyer to work towards a solution.

The district attorney may also have the power to enforce child support payments by filing criminal charges against your ex. If your ex does not have a valid reason for not making payments, or even if they do and have not complied with a court order, they can face contempt charges.

Consequences of contempt include:

  • Up to six months in jail
  • A fine of up to $500
  • Probation for up to six months
  • Loss of driver's license (or any professional license)

A judge can issue a wage assignment, which will automatically deduct child support payments from your ex's paycheck. The judge may also attach a “levy” on your ex's bank accounts, house, and other property to get past due child support.

My Ex Won't Pay Child Support. What Do I Do?

If your ex doesn't pay child support, you should immediately contact an attorney and seek help from relevant government agencies.

Pennsylvania child support enforcement laws provide relief when a parent fails to pay what they owe.

The Bureau of Child Support Enforcement

If your ex isn't paying child support, you can contact the Domestic Relations office in your county to file a petition for contempt. If the office is aware your ex isn't making payments, it may initiate action on its own. Before going to court, the Domestic Relations office may schedule a conference to ensure compliance in the future. If the truant parent does not attend that conference, they may be held in contempt of court.

If they don't attend the hearing in front of a judge, they could have a bench warrant issued for their arrest.

While most child support is paid through income withholding through the Pennsylvania State Collection and Disbursement Unit, it may also be paid directly to a parent via personal check, cashier's check, or money order. Regardless of how yours is supposed to be paid, your local Office of Domestic Relations can help enforce it.

Filing a Court Action with an Attorney

While you're not required to use an attorney to enforce your child support payments, working with a child support lawyer may be in your best interest.

When you have an attorney on your side, you have a personal representative dedicating their time and resources to your specific case.

Your attorney can file a petition with the court to hold your ex in contempt for non-payment.

In many cases, getting immediate consequences levied is more accessible when someone is on your side.

A Child Support Enforcement Lawyer Can Help You

You have options if your ex refuses to make child support payments. While you are not required to work with an attorney, it only benefits you to have someone on your side who understands the law. Gibson Family Law, PLLC has the experience and resources that you need to get the best outcome possible in your case.

Attorney Susan Gibson has been exclusively practicing family law in Bucks County for nearly 15 years. She's got the experience and knowledge to help you through your family law needs. Susan's compassionate and understanding, and she's ready to help you reach the best solution for your case.

Call us today at (267) 337-6524 or use our online contact form to reach out.

About the Author

Susan M. Gibson

“Susan is an amazing attorney who is extremely knowledgeable, trustworthy, and collaborative.” Attorney Susan Gibson has exclusively practiced family law for almost 15 years throughout Philadelphia with a current focus in Bucks and Montgomery Counties. She became a lawyer because of her fascinat...

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