What Does It Mean to Default on Child Support?
In the state of Virginia, both parents are legally responsible for supporting their children financially. This responsibility has no bearing on whether the parents are or ever have been married. If a parent is ordered to pay child support and gets behind in payments, they will be considered in default. Missing child support payments is taken very seriously in Virginia, and if you are behind in payment, you may face severe consequences. You will also continue to be held legally responsible for all missed child support payments, as well as current and future payments.
Will I Owe Back Child Support?
If you have defaulted on their child support, you will likely continue to owe back child support until you have caught up and all owed monies are paid. Furthermore, in Virginia, you will also be charged interest on unpaid child support monthly. Currently, the race is 0.5% a month, for a total of 6% annually.
When a parent owes back child support, Virginia’s Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) will show an arrears balance reflecting the child support owed. The parent designated to receive the child support (typically the custodial parent) will continue to receive payments for the arrears (back child support) owed. These payments will continue even if there is no longer current child support owed.
DCSE will typically use the same enforcement methods used to collect current child support when collecting arrears. Keep reading to learn about Virginia’s child support enforcement methods.
How Do Virginia Courts Enforce Child Support Orders?
When a parent defaults or fails to pay court-ordered child support. The parent receiving the support has the option to petition for court enforcement of the order. Child support enforcement is handled through the DCSE, and they use various methods to collect past-due and currently owed child support.
Enforcement methods include:
- Income withholding
- Property liens
- License suspensions (including drivers’ and professional licensing)
- Interception of income tax refunds
- Reporting child support arrearages to credit bureaus
If DCSE is unsuccessful in collecting back child support, they can refer the case for court action. When this happens, the person in arrears will be served with a summons to appear in court. Court action is typically sought in cases where the parent in default is more than 90-days past due, and they owe $500 or more.
To learn more about how DCSE and the Virginia courts enforce child support orders, review their FAQ sheet here.
How to Ask for Child Support Enforcement
If you are a custodial parent who is supposed to receive child support and your child’s other parent has fallen behind in payment, you can apply for child support enforcement through DCSE. You also have the option of filing an enforcement action with the court and taking your matter before a judge.
Regardless of how you wish to pursue enforcement, you should speak with an experienced lawyer first. The enforcement process can be complicated, and a skilled attorney is an invaluable resource. Your lawyer can help you understand your legal options, guide you through preparing and filing your paperwork, and use their experience to help you select the best path for you.
What Should I Do If I Am Struggling to Make Child Support Payments?
If you are struggling to make child support payments, you should reach out to your lawyer right away. Do not ignore the problem, and do not assume that the problem will resolve itself. Because the consequences of defaulting on court-ordered child support are so severe, it is important that you deal with the issue right away. An experienced attorney can review your legal options and help you determine what is best for you.
In some cases, you may be able to request a modification of your child support order. Modifications are typically used when a parent or child has experienced a significant and lasting change in circumstances, making the original order insufficient or inappropriate. For example, if you lost a job, relocated, or became disabled, you may have grounds for a modification.
For help with your child support case or to find out if you qualify for a modification, contact our law firm to schedule a consultation.