Unpaid Child Support: What Are the Risks?

In all states, parents have a legal duty to support their children. A court order requiring payment of child support must be obeyed. Not supporting your children can result in a whole host of consequences, both civil and criminal.

The requirement to pay child support can come in many forms. If the parents were married, the requirement to pay child support may be contained in an order dissolving the marriage or in an order granting a legal separation. The requirement to pay child support may also be established in a support order, or, for unmarried parents, in a paternity order.

The obligation to pay child support continues until the child is of the age of majority (18), although additional requirements may be set forth in a court order.

Both federal and state law provide severe consequences for the nonpayment of child support, including the following:

  • Wage or other income garnishment;
  • The seizure of personal property, such as a car;
  • The placement of a lien on a home;
  • The loss of a federal or state tax refund;
  • The revocation of driver’s licenses, passports, or occupational or professional licenses; and
  • The reporting of the child support obligations to credit agencies.

In severe cases, a parent can serve jail or prison time as a result of unpaid child support. A court can also order the payment of fines, hold the parent in contempt of court, and require the parent to pay restitution.

New Mexico state law makes the failure to pay child support a fourth-degree felony that carries up to an 18-month sentence, in addition to a fine of up to $5,000.

The right to child support belongs to the child. For this reason, the child can enforce nonpayment any time until his or her 25th birthday.

As you might imagine, overdue child support can mount quickly. An experienced New Mexico family lawyer can help you understand the laws that apply to child support and obtain the result that is best for you and your children. If you have questions about child support, contact the Lightning Legal Group. We understand the typically acrimonious nature of proceedings, and we’ll help you find your way. Contact us today at (505) 247-2390 for experienced legal advice.


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