Not paying the required amount of child support can lead to legal trouble, but many parents find it difficult to keep up with payments. Census data suggest that only about 45 percent of custodial parents received the full amount of maintenance required by a standing support agreement. However, a non-custodial parent can take a number of steps to avoid legal action when he or she is unable to make the full payment every month.
The first action to take is to contact the child support enforcement agency in charge of collecting the payments. A representative can explain the procedure to get payments reduced temporarily or permanently based on the changes in financial resources. When parents request reductions in their child support due to job loss, the modification may be time-limited. However, if a paying parent becomes disabled and is unable to work, the adjustment in support may be permanent.
Making contact with the enforcement agency is very important because there are serious consequences for not paying child support. Failing to make the minimum payments can result in driver’s license suspension, tax liens and possible time in jail. The child support agency in the county where the order was issued may be able to delay the enforcement of the order while the case is reviewed for modification.
The courts carefully examine requests for modification of child support orders and they are not always approved. When modifying the child support order isn’t an option or won’t result in a significant reduction in monthly payments, parents are sometimes able to make ends meet by taking a part-time job.
Parents who struggle to make their child support payments because of overwhelming credit card debt or medical bills may consider filing for bankruptcy. While this obligation won’t be discharged in bankruptcy, filing for Chapter 7 can reduce a parent’s overall monthly expenses and may make it easier to pay the court-ordered child support.