Enforcement of Child Support. If you owe unpaid child support, your child’s other parent has a number of ways to collect the money from you.
• First, the other parent may go to court and ask a judge to issue a judgment for the amount of the arrears. This is called a judgment for child support. Once the parent has a judgment, a whole host of collection methods become available.
• Even without a judgment for past-due child support, there are other options for collection, such as automatic wage withholding.
• Finally, both the federal and state governments are also involved in enforcing child support orders and they can use aggressive tactics to get the money for your kids.
Failure to Pay Child Support
Child support is intended to provide for a child’s needs, from housing to food to clothing and even extracurricular activities. It’s not payment made to the custodial parent in exchange for caring for the child, although most states don’t regulate how the money is actually used. Only 43.5% of the children who are owed child support money regularly receive full payments, according a Census Bureau’s Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support 2018 report. Failure to pay child support is a federal offense in the Utah, and noncustodial parents who fail to pay face several penalties.
Utah Driver’s License Suspension
All states ask if you pay child support as a part of their driver’s license renewal process, and local child support agencies regularly report to the Division of Motor Vehicles when a parent falls behind on support payments. This allows the state to quickly check and enforce this first-step penalty for failure to pay.
Utah Wage Garnishment
The state will contact an employer directly and have the company take support payments out of a parent’s paycheck under a court-issued Default Judgment and Wage Garnishment Order. The money is then sent to the state for transmittal to the custodial parent.
Utah Fines and Penalties
Some states also charge additional fines and penalties for unpaid child support. Parents who fall far behind on regular payments can wind up owing tens of thousands of dollars.
Utah Denial of Passports
Delinquent parents could find that they’re unable to obtain passports. The state can prevent them from obtaining or renewing them, limiting the ability to travel for work or leisure.
Dismissal From Military Service
Noncustodial parents in the military who fail to pay child support can be dismissed from military service as a consequence for nonpayment.
Jail Time In Utah
Imprisonment is usually the last resort for failure to pay child support. The duration of the sentence can vary by jurisdiction, but parents are usually released as soon as all child support arrears are paid. Unfortunately, the parent can’t work during a period of incarceration. Parents who go to jail for nonpayment rarely emerge from jail better equipped to address the issue.
Utah Federal Penalties
Parents can also be convicted of a federal offense under Section 228 of Title 18 of United States Code in cases where they owe child support and move to a different state. The federal government must prove several things in order to secure a conviction under this law:
• The parent had the ability to pay.
• The parent willfully failed to pay.
• Child support has not been paid for at least a year or
• The parent owes more than $5,000 in support.
This is considered a criminal misdemeanor and can result in up to six months in prison. The charge can increase to a criminal felony and up to two years in prison when support hasn’t been paid in two years or the amount owed reaches $10,000 or more.
Failure to Pay Due to Financial Hardship In Utah
There are times when a parent simply can’t make child support payments due to unexpected job loss or another legitimate hardship. Parents should never simply fail to make child support payments altogether when this happens. They should communicate with the co-parent and with the state about the underlying issue. Parents who struggle with support payments can seek formal child support modification through the courts. In the meantime, they should continue to provide support in other ways to the extent possible, such as by providing clothing, food, medical care, or child care.
How to Not Pay Child Support In Utah
• Understanding Child Support Calculations: Understand the purpose of child support. Child support is designed to allow a child to enjoy a standard of living that is approximate to what he or she would have enjoyed had the parents lived together. Child support may be ordered when the parents are separated, have never lived together, or are in divorce, dissolution of marriage, annulment, or in the midst of paternity and legal separation cases. Typically, it is paid to the parent with whom the children spend the majority of their time. Child support is not alimony. The purpose of alimony is to rehabilitate or support a former spouse. Though the other parent may financially benefit from child support payments, the purpose of the payments is to benefit the children who no longer live with you. Once set, child support payments can only be modified by court order.
• Read your state laws on child support: Each state has formulas for determining child support payments, typically found in statutes. You may find your statute by typing “child support” and your state into a web browser. These formulas consider the child’s needs and the parents’ ability to pay. These formulas, however, are often only “guidelines,” which a judge can deviate from. Typically, courts can consider a variety of factors when setting child support payments:
The parents’ income. Some states consider only the non-custodial parent’s income, while other courts consider both. Also, some states use “gross” income while others consider only “net” income (income after taxes and allowable deductions, such as taxes and/or union dues).
Child support or alimony that either parent receives or is paying from a previous marriage.
Which parent is paying for childcare and health care.
Whether either parent is responsible for children other than the children from the current marriage.
The number of children each parent is supporting and their age. This factor is important because the expenses of raising children do not double for each child you add.
Whether either parent lives with a new partner or spouse who contributes to household expenses.
If the child is disabled. If your child is disabled, support payments could continue indefinitely if the child is not capable of self-care.
• Meet with an attorney: An experienced attorney can help you strategize ways of lowering your child support payments. An attorney also may have particular experience with local judges and will know what the judges are looking for when considering a modification to child support. To find an experienced family law attorney, you can visit your state’s bar association website. States often run referral services, which you can call or email.
• File a petition to terminate support: Sometimes the court will terminate a parent’s support obligations. However, this only happens in certain specified situations:
I. You have no income. Most states will grant a non-custodial parent’s petition to temporarily suspend child support if the parent has lost his or her job or has become disabled and is in the process of applying for disability benefits.
II. You are being incarcerated. Some states will allow temporary suspension for incarceration; however, other states will not.
III. The child reaches the age of majority. In most states, a parent can stop paying when a child reaches the age of majority (18 in most states). However, in some states a parent is obligated to pay until the child reaches 21.
IV. The child dies. Even at the child’s death, you must petition the court to stop payments. You cannot just stop paying on your own.
• Fill out a petition: Your state probably has prepared “fill in the blank” forms for you to fill out. You must find the right form to modify your child support payments. In different states it will go by different names: “Petition/Motion to Modify Child Support,” “Motion Regarding Support,” or some other title. You can always ask the court clerk what form you need to fill out. Although the court clerk cannot offer legal advice, he or she should be able to point you to the right form to fill out. If you have questions, see if the court has a self-help center or a family law facilitator. Because family law cases make up such a bulk of the court’s docket, many courts have staff who can answer legal questions and help you fill out forms.
• File the petition: You will need to take the completed petition to the court clerk to file. Be prepared to pay a filing fee. If you can’t afford the fee, then ask for a fee waiver form and fill it out. You will also need to serve notice on the other parent. Typically, notice can be served personally using the sheriff, a professional process server, or someone over 18 who is not involved in the case. Ask the court clerk for the form you need to fill out and how to pay any applicable fees associated with service.
• Attend a hearing: After filing the forms, you should ask for a hearing date. You may be given a date at that time or have a date mailed to you. Be sure to bring sufficient documentation to the hearing. Necessary documents will depend on your grounds for seeking to have your child custody payments stopped. If the child has died, then bring a death certificate. If you have no money, then bring pay stubs, bank statements, tax returns, and any other financial information.
• Take a possible appeal: You may have the option to appeal a child support determination. Ask the clerk for the Notice of Appeal form. It may go by a different name, depending on your state and court. Nevertheless, clearly ask how you can appeal. To appeal, you need to have some objection to the judge’s interpretation of the law or the judge’s understanding of the facts. In practice, it is difficult to appeal a child custody order because judges are given discretion when setting the amount you must pay. After securing the appeal form, fill it out and file it. You will probably need to provide notice to the other parent as well.
Utah Obtaining Custody of Your Children
• Understand what you need to prove at court: Another way to stop child support payments is to obtain custody of the child. If you ask for custody, the court will look to a variety of factors to determine what is in the child’s “best interests.” These factors will differ by state. They will be listed in either a statute passed by the legislature or in a court opinion issued by your state supreme court. Courts will look at different factors, depending on state. Utah, for example, considers: the love and affection existing between the parties and the child; the ability and willingness of the parties to provide food, shelter, clothing, and medical care; moral fitness of the parent; stability of the custodial environment; and mental and physical health of the parties, among other factors. Among a variety of factors, Utah considers the wishes of the child; the child’s adjustment to home, school, and community; the mental and physical health of all individuals involved; as well as the interaction and interrelationship of the child to each parent and to siblings. To find the specific factors for your state, search online for “best interests of the child” and then your state.
• Consult with a lawyer: Custody determinations are complicated and important. An experienced attorney may have insight as to what judges will consider persuasive evidence that custody should be modified. Even if costs are a concern, some attorneys provide “unbundled services,” which means that they will provide limited services such as document preparation, legal advice, or coaching for a flat fee. If at any time you are confused about how to proceed, you should seek out a lawyer’s assistance. To find an experienced, local family lawyer, search your yellow pages or perform an internet search for “child custody attorney” and your city or county.
• Locate the appropriate court: Generally, you will file your petition in the county where your child lives. This is true even if you live in a different county.
• Find the forms: To modify custody, you need to file a petition with the court. Your courthouse should have preprinted, “fill in the blank” forms for you to fill out. Stop into the courthouse or look on this website.
• Complete the forms: Fill out the forms accurately and completely. The forms may request financial information, such as how much you make in a year and the present cash value of life insurance or retirement accounts. Give yourself plenty of time to fill out the forms. Some states require an online interview, which helps generate the appropriate forms. You may have to create a username and password in order to access this program.
• Get the completed forms notarized. Once you have completed the appropriate forms, you may need to sign them in front of a notary. You can find a notary by visiting your state’s Department of State website. Also, many banks have notary services available for a fee. Many courthouses provide notary services as well. You must bring sufficient personal identification to prove to the notary that you are who you say you are. Acceptable identification includes a driver’s license, a passport, or a state-issued personal identification card.
• File the forms: File the original set of documents with the clerk of court. Keep several copies for your records as well as to mail to the other parent. You will probably be asked to pay a filing fee. Ask the clerk to stamp your copies with the filing date. If you cannot pay the fee, ask for a fee waiver and complete it. Do not be embarrassed to ask for it if you cannot pay. The clerk will also need to sign your summons, which will be returned to you.
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It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!
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