Jail time to increase for parents refusing to pay child support

Raising children is expensive, and it's helpful when both parents can contribute financially to ensure their kids have the things and care that they need. If the parents' relationship ends, the court will usually order the noncustodial parent -- that is, the parent who doesn't have physical custody -- to pay child support on a monthly basis.

But what if a parent can't afford to pay child support, or refuses to? New York's Child Support Enforcement program has several ways to address either of these problems.

Unwilling to pay

The state can automatically deduct child support funds from the noncustodial parent's paycheck if he or she doesn't pay them voluntarily. CSE may also collect tax refunds and lottery winnings, or seize assets from noncustodial parents.

Sometimes, however, these collection efforts aren't enough and a custodial parent needs to take his or her former partner to court. The consequence for parents who refuse to pay has historically been a jail sentence of up to six months. But earlier this month, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled that willful violators may receive back-to-back sentences if they repeatedly skip out of their payments. The new ruling only applies to those who can afford to pay support, but refuse.

Unable to pay

In part because financial circumstances as well as parenting schedules do change, child support cases are revisited every two years. But job loss, an unexpected large expense or other hardship can strike at any time. Parents who lose the ability to keep up with child support payments need to be proactive to avoid facing the consequences above. If you find yourself in this predicament, contacting a family law attorney to request a review or a modification in the amount you pay is a great way to show that you're still invested in your child's well-being.

While it may be difficult for a non-custodial parent to request a hearing if they are facing financial difficulties, it is important to act on these situations sooner rather than later.

It can also be tempting for some non-custodial parents to withhold child support payments if they believe the money is being squandered or that the custodial parent is not providing their child with the level of care they need. Even though it may be difficult to pay when you hold these beliefs, it is better to go back to your family law attorney with solid concerns to try to get more parenting time, and possibly a lower child support payment through a review. This may take time, but it does nothing for the child if their parent is unavailable to them and behind bars.

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