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What Happens When You Don’t Pay Child Support

While the amount of the child support will vary upon the non-custodial parent’s income and the number of minor children, making payments is mandated by the court of law. Child support payments will specify how much and when the amount must be paid by the non-custodial parent. But if they are not able or refuse to make the payments, serious consequences can take place.

What Happens When Payments are Not Made

Child support is a court order, and any parent that does not make the payments will be held in contempt of court. Those who don’t will be notified by mail that they are in contempt of court and ordered to appear before a judge. If they refuse to appear, a bench warrant will be made out for their arrest.
Keep in mind that if the non-custodial parent still does appear, they may still be arrested if they are not able to provide proof that they are not capable of making the payments.

Child Support Enforcement Program

The nationwide Child Support Enforcement program works with the state to ensure that all child support payments are made by non-custodial payments. They do this by locating the parent, discussing with them their obligations to make payments, and enforcing the court order.
When it reaches the state level, the job is handled by the Family Services Division of Child Support Services and the Department of Healthcare. After they are paid, the child support payments are recorded in the DCSS database and the payments are monitored afterwards.
After the custodial parent notifies the DCSS of lack of payment, the DCSS begins collecting the debt against the other parent. But if a custodial parent is already getting public assistance, this is done automatically.

Preventing the Contempt Charge

If the non-custodial parent feels that they are not able to make the child support payments, they must notify the court immediately. Whether it’s the loss of a job, extended illness, or other reason, there are options available.
One is to file a motion for child support modification that would essentially decrease the amount each month. It is recommended to work with a child support attorney, but this option is considered by most to be more favorable as opposed to being held in contempt.

Other Charges

If the non-custodial parent is incarcerated, most judges know that it is impossible for them to make ample child support payments. So if they missed a few, most courts won’t proceed to prosecution right away.
Common penalties of not making payments include taking tax refunds, suspending a driver’s license if they believe doing so will help them make payments, garnish wages, or seize assets. Depending on the verdict, the amount of the payments may also be adjusted.
In this situation, if any previous payments are still owed, they will not be changed. But the payments regarding the current timeframe will be changed to allow the non-custodial parent to pay in full.

Wage Garnishment

After notifying the DCSS for lack of payment from the non-custodial parent, the department first tries to collect the payments that are past-due from their wages, known as wage garnishment. DCSS will present their employer with an Income Withholding for Support request and requests that the employer withhold a portion of the paycheck to be paid towards child support.

This will continue until the past-due payments are made in full. If they are not able to have their income withheld, the agency may require them to post a security, bond of or other form of payment.

License Suspensions

Sometimes the courts will suspend a non-custodial parent’s driver’s license, passport, professional, occupation, or recreational license in addition to garnishing wages for lack of payment of child support.
According to the Family Financial Responsibility Act, DCSS may remove the non-custodial parent’s driving privileges if they are more than 90 days behind on their payments. The only way this can be avoided is by making all past-due payments before the suspension date.


Although this is a last resort, a non-custodial parent that refuses to make child support payments or owes over $5,000, DCSS can request state or federal prosecution for lack of payments.
This can include fines and imprisonment with the total amount or duration of jail time exceeding the amount of the non-payment. For example, the parent can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor for failure to pay child support that exceeds six months or owes more than $5,000. But they can also be charged with a Class 4 felony and imprisoned between 1 and 3 years if they are over $20,000 in lack of payments.

Work with a Child Support Attorney

As you may know, making child support payments is crucial if you want to avoid penalties. But this doesn’t mean that you should go into financial turmoil or not be able to enjoy other activities in life.
If you are unable to make child support payments or feel that yours are too high, reach out to a child support attorney at Berry K. Tucker & Associates, Ltd. Our professionals have years of experience helping clients to make the payments that are affordable for them.
Give us a call at  if you are located in the south Chicago suburban area to schedule your initial consultation.