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What happens if my ex fails to pay child support?

As long as you have a valid child support order from your county’s Domestic Relations, the court can enforce that order. The penalties for failure to pay child support escalate as time goes on.

Is there anything I can do?

You, as the “obligee” (the person who is owed support) can file a petition for civil contempt at any time if the “obligor” (the person who owes you support) is not paying child support.

What will domestic relations do to enforce child support orders?

Domestic Relations will file a petition for civil contempt to enforce the order. In some circumstances, they can do this immediately, while in others, they may have to wait up to 20 days after the obligor fails to comply with the child support order.

Does this involve going to court?

Yes, the obligor will be asked to answer to the civil contempt petition in court. If the obligor fails to go to court, a bench warrant may be issued for their arrest. It is also advisable for the obligee to attend court for the contempt hearing.

What are the consequences of civil contempt?

If the obligor is found to be in civil contempt, it is possible that they may pay the balance of the arrears they owe or set up a payment plan with Domestic Relations. If they are unable to pay, and there are no compelling circumstances that justify their nonpayment of support, they may be incarcerated until such a time as they fulfill certain conditions the court lays out. The court may also order the obligor to obtain employment within a certain timeframe.

What about criminal contempt?

If the obligor has already faced a civil contempt hearing and has been ordered by the court to obtain employment that is subject to income attachment (i.e. to pay the support owed), and the obligor willfully fails to comply with that order, then they can be held in indirect criminal contempt. They will then be incarcerated for a period of time determined by the court.