When married parents get divorced, the custodial parent (parent with custody) is often left with considerably less income. This can create financial strain for the custodial parent as they raise their young child. To remedy this situation, the law allows Pennsylvania’s family courts to order non-custodial parents to provide financial support to custodial parents. This is known as child support. Unfortunately, there are many cases where a non-custodial parent disobeys court orders and makes late payments, makes payments that are smaller than the ordered amount, or does not make any payments at all. If your ex-husband or ex-wife is not paying child support, try not to panic: there are many legal solutions to address non-payment of child support, which our Philadelphia child support attorneys can help you with if you are in this situation.
Can I Withhold Visitation if My Ex-Husband or Ex-Wife Isn’t Paying Child Support?
If your ex-wife or ex-husband is refusing to pay child support, you may have felt tempted to retaliate by withholding visitation. Perhaps you have thought to yourself, “Maybe if I refuse to let them see our child, they’ll start paying child support the way they’re supposed to.”
It’s understandable to have these emotions, especially if the failure to pay has put your family into a tough financial situation. Nonetheless, no matter how angry or hurt you may feel, it is critically important that you do not react in this manner – because if you do, there could be dire legal consequences. You do not have the legal right to withhold visitation with the non-custodial parent, and if you do deny your former spouse the ability to visit with his or her child in defiance of court orders, you could potentially be charged with contempt of court, leaving you subject to fines, jail time, and other penalties.
In fact, this is the very position your ex-husband or ex-wife may find themselves if they defy court orders by failing to pay child support. Under 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 4345(a), anyone who “willfully fails to comply with any [child support] order” can be fined up to $1,000, incarcerated for up to six months, and/or be placed on probation for up to a year.
3 Ways to Enforce Support Orders in Pennsylvania
As we have just discussed, the failure to pay child support – or, for that matter, the retaliatory withholding of visitation – can lead to very serious consequences. Do not resort to breaking the law simply because your spouse is.
Instead of “fighting fire with fire” – an approach that can only lead to legal problems – the appropriate response is to contact a family law attorney, who will be able to help you enforce the support order in a safe, legal manner. For example, here are three of the strategies your attorney could potentially pursue to enforce a child support order in Pennsylvania:
- Wage Garnishment – Wage garnishment is a method of debt collection by which money is deducted directly from a debtor’s earnings. When wages are garnished, the debtor’s employer is required to withhold a certain amount from the employee’s paycheck, so that it can be directed toward repayment of the child support debt. While Pennsylvania law generally limits wage garnishment to 10% of an employee’s net wages, up to 50% or even 60% of the employee’s wages could be garnished for failure to pay child support, which is an exception to the 10% limit.
- Real Property Liens – A lien is a legal document, sometimes used by creditors as a debt collection tool, which limits what the debtor has the right to do with the property to which it has been attached. For example, if your spouse is failing to make child support payments, it may be possible to attach a lien against his or her home, which could have the effect of removing your spouse’s ability to take out a home equity loan until the lien has been paid off. In some situations, a lien can even force the debtor to sell the property.
- Bank Account Seizure – If your spouse is refusing to pay child support, it may be possible to seize their bank account, at which point the funds can be directed toward past due child support payments.
Philadelphia Child Support Attorneys Representing Mothers and Fathers
If you live in the Philadelphia, Bucks County, or Delaware County region and are struggling to resolve a child support dispute, the family law attorneys of Sadek & Cooper Law Offices can help. To speak with our Philadelphia divorce lawyers or Bucks County child support attorneys in a free and confidential legal consultation, call Sadek & Cooper Law Offices as soon as possible at 215-814-0395.