As part of the child custody matter between you and the other parent of your child or children, you may be required to pay a child maintenance amount each month, also known as child support. This money is allocated for the health and benefit of the children and is ordered by the court as a mandatory payment set up by the judge or magistrate handling your case.
While it is a required amount that is paid, a lot of men and women have created an idea in their mind that this is not an obligation. If they don’t want to pay it, they feel like they should not have to.
There are also those who are struggling to pay their child support because of hardships or emergencies that may have arisen. They may have every intention of paying their monthly support, but a loss of a job, an unexpected medical bill, or a reduction in hours at work can lead to a hardship that makes it difficult to stay current with the amount that is owed.
Not Paying Your Child Support is a Violation of a Court Order
Whether you are simply refusing to make your child support payments or you are unable to do so, you need to understand that failure to make your payments is a violation of the court order. This is a mandatory order, meaning that you are obligated to make this payment no matter what the circumstance may be.
Failure to do so is a crime that is referred to as contempt of court. A failure to make child support payments is seen as a person refusing to acknowledge the court’s order, resulting in a judge making a ruling that the person who has not made the payments is in contempt.
You Can Go to Jail for Not Paying Child Support
There are harsh consequences that can come from failing to make your child support payments. Understand that in the state of Arizona, a person who fails to pay the child support that they are obligated to pay by the court is guilty of a crime known as “failure of parent to provide for child.” In Arizona, this is a class VI felony, which can result in up to 1.5 years in prison.
The court could also rule that the amount owed does not reach the level of a felony, making it a misdemeanor. This can still mean that a fine of $2500 and jail time of up to six months can be imposed. It is at the discretion of the judge to determine.
What Can I Do to Avoid Going to Jail?
One error that many people make is that they feel that being behind one or two payments is not that big of a deal. Understand that the moment when you have fallen behind in your court mandated child support payments, you are guilty of contempt of court. The judge can order your arrest and order a trial date be set to determine if you are in violation of the law. Clearly, this is not the avenue you want for yourself.
However, if you do not take action when you get behind, you can easily find yourself standing before a judge trying to explain why it is that you have violated the court’s order. This does not end well in most cases.
To avoid these kinds of issues, contact the court in advance and let them know you are having some kind of financial problem. If you are sure that you are going to be unable to make your payment on time, contact the judge and let him or her know what the circumstance is. What you will often find is that something can be worked out to allow you to reduce or miss a payment, which would then be required to be made up at some point.
You should also consider contacting the other parent of your child. See if he or she is willing to work out some kind of agreement with you based on your circumstance. If there is an agreement put in place, this can be a mitigating circumstance which will require the court to take no action.
What is important is that you take a proactive stance to ensure you don’t put yourself in a bad situation with the court. Understand that they will work with you if you give them the opportunity. They are going to be less likely to work with you if you simply aren’t making payments.
Seek Legal Help
If you are finding yourself in this situation, it is best that you contact an attorney to see what your options are. This is especially true if you are behind in your payments and are concerned that the judge may file a contempt of court order against you.
By having an attorney contact the court on your behalf, you can preempt any kind of action that may have gone against you. Even if there is an order for your arrest at this point, working with an attorney can assist you to resolve this issue without an arrest being necessary.
It is important that you understand you should not simply let this go and hope it goes away. The longer you allow your payments to lapse, the more likely it is that you are going to find yourself in a really bad situation legally. This is why you should contact us at JacksonWhite to see how we can assist you. We can give you advice on how you can best remedy the situation, even representing you if you choose to retain us.
Call the Family Law Team at (480) 467-4348 to discuss your case today.