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When a parent stops making child support payments

As part of a Maryland divorce or custody order, a non-custodial parent may be ordered to pay child support for a child or children. Penalties and enforcement procedures are in place when parents fail to make court-ordered payments. However, these measures are most often aimed at parents who for some reason are not making payments even though they have the means. Those who legitimately cannot make payments should get an existing support order modified to avoid delinquency.

If a non-custodial parent stops making payments, the other parent must go to court to start an enforcement action. The court has officials who can begin attempting to collect late payments after a parent proves that the required child support is not arriving.

Federal laws like the Child Support Enforcement Act of 1984 allow certain government officials to collect overdue child support payments for custodial parents. To do this, they can freeze bank accounts, garnish wages, give reports to credit bureaus or put liens on property. Additionally, those who owe a certain amount cannot obtain a passport until the past due amount is paid. Jail time is also a possible consequence when a parent does not make payments, but other methods are attempted first because an incarcerated parent usually cannot readily make payments.

Child support enforcement methods are not intended to punish those who cannot afford to make payments, and requesting a modification of a support order can lower an amount or stop payments if it is granted. These orders are meant to be long-term, so there must be a change in circumstances that make a modification necessary. This might occur when a non-custodial parent loses a job for reasons outside of the parent's control, so this might apply to a layoff but perhaps not to being fired for behavioral reasons.

Source: FindLaw, "Enforcement and Collection of Back Child Support", accessed on Jan. 26, 2015

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