Can You be Arrested for Not Paying Child Support in Pennsylvania?

Child support can be an extremely frustrating system for many Pennsylvanians. While it may seem like child support payments are too expensive, or the system is working against you, you should continue to pay child support. There are methods of lowering child support payments if they are too expensive, but failing to pay can lead to severe punishments. In extreme cases, child support non-payment can even lead to arrest.

It is important to consider the consequences when considering how to lower your child support payments, and that you talk to an attorney instead of resorting to self-help. Courts look badly upon attempts to get out of or disobey child support orders. If you are having trouble affording child support or your payments are unfairly high, talk to an attorney today about lowering your payments. The Philadelphia child support attorneys at the Sadek and Cooper Law Offices may be able to help modify your child support orders.

Penalties for Child Support Non-Payment in PA

An order to pay child support is a court order. Like many court orders, the laws of Pennsylvania give judges the ability to enforce orders with harsh penalties. Without these penalties, the courts would have no guarantee that people obey its orders, and a court decision would simply become a piece of powerless paper. Many of the court’s tools to punish child support non-payment are financial, but the law does allow for arrest for intentional refusal to pay.

Financial Punishments

In order to fight failures to pay child support, judges have the ability to order three types of financial penalties against those who refuse to pay: wage garnishment, property liens, and seizure of bank accounts. These processes are legally referred to as “attachment,” a process where, in order to satisfy a debt, the court “attaches” other money to the case and draws from that. In the case of wages, the court can attach a portion of your paycheck directly from your employer. They may also be able to take actions against real estate that you own, attaching that to the case, or seize control of your bank accounts to satisfy payments.

You may also face a surcharge on payments. For payments that are outstanding for at least 30 days, courts can make you pay a 10% penalty on the unpaid money. This means that failing to pay only digs you a deeper financial hole.

Pennsylvania Family Law Attorneys

Civil Contempt

The last, and most harsh, penalty for disobeying a child support order is “civil contempt.” This is like a criminal charge, in that you can be sent to jail, but with extra rules that keep it less than criminal. While, a crime is punished with a jail term that you cannot avoid, civil contempt only holds you in jail as long as you continue to violate the order. This means that you can be arrested and put in jail for intentionally refusing to pay, but they will release you as soon as you make the payments.

Civil contempt is still very harsh, and can hold you in jail for up to six months if you continue to refuse payment. In addition, you could face a fine up to $1,000 and a period of probation that lasts no longer than one year. Probation would mean you need to follow specific rules, check in with a probation officer, and remain free from criminal conduct.

Lowering Child Support Payments in PA

If you are having trouble paying the required child support for your PA case, it may be that the ordered support amounts are simply too high. If you recently had a big life change, you might be entitled to lowered payments. Rather than lowering payments on your own, it is vital that you talk to an attorney, go to court, and have a judge lower the payments for you. Alternatively, your lawyer could talk to the other parent’s lawyer and try to come to an agreement with lowered child support amounts.

Pennsylvania Child Support Lawyers

For any “material and substantial change in circumstances” in your financial life, you might be entitled to a child support modification. This can include things like changes in income, medical expenses, or other expenses. If the child’s custodial parent gets a higher-paying job, moves in with someone else, or remarries, their life changes might also entitled you to lowered payments. Talk to an attorney to see what changes you might be entitled to.

Pennsylvania Child Support Lawyers

The Pennsylvania family lawyers at The Sadek and Cooper Law Offices might be able to help you get your child support payments reduced. In any case, do not resort to lowering the payments yourself or stopping payments. If you are facing penalties for non-payment, our lawyers may be able to fight the case against you and keep you from wage garnishment, liens, fines, and jail time. Call 215-814-0395 today for a free consultation on your child support case.

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