Enforcing Your Child Support Order - Contempt
Enforcing a child support order can be a daunting task for any parent. In Georgia, there are several options available to ensure that the order is being complied with. A popular method is wage garnishment through income withholding order, which allows the amount owed to automatically be deducted by an employer from the non-custodial parent's paycheck. Additionally, the state of Georgia can intercept tax refunds, place liens on property, and even suspend driver's and professional licenses for non-payment. If you are struggling to receive the child support you are owed, it's important to seek legal guidance to explore your options. Remember, you have the right to financial support for your child and there are resources available to help you enforce your order.
Preempting Contempt - Income Withholding Order
When it comes to enforcing child support orders in Georgia, income withholding orders, also known as income deduction orders (IDOs) play a critical role. These orders allow for child support payments to be deducted directly from a parent's paycheck, making it easier and more efficient to ensure the consistent payment of child support. Employers are required by law to comply with income deduction orders, so it's important to keep them updated with any changes in the amount of child support owed. This process not only helps to ensure that children receive the financial support they require, but it also provides peace of mind for custodial parents who may have struggled to receive payments in the past.
Most of the time, an income withholding order is ordered or provided for upon one month's non-payment when a child support order is first issued. Usually, our clients only use this option if they know that the paying parent has a stable job with an employer who runs payroll. Otherwise, there's no guarantee of payment. In order to enforce an IDO, you must file it with the IDO Georgia office, along with a filled out IWO (Income withholding order) form which identifies the parties, the children, the amounts, and the paying parent's employer. Then, the state will take over and coordinate the withholding. Because of this process, it's important to note that there will be a slight delay from when you get the order to when you receive the first payment. However, all payments will be deducted automatically from then on, and any payments missed in the interim of setting up the account will be paid eventually.
If the other parent changes jobs, then their current employer is responsible for informing you or your attorney of the change. Then it is up to you to file with the state office a new IWO form listing the paying parent's new employer. They are still responsible for payments during the transition period, and they have the option to pay the state directly, or they will simply pay it out later over the course of the income withholding period - even after the child turns 18. If the other parent loses their job, they are still on the hook to pay, but you will not get the deductions as there's no paycheck to deduct from. If this happens, you may need to try another option if the other parent is not making payments.
If you have questions about income withholding orders or need assistance with enforcing a child support order, it's important to consult with a qualified family law attorney who can guide you through the process.
Georgia Department of Human Resources - Division of Child Support Services
Another option for enforcement of a child support order is to utilize the state services of the Georgia Department of Human Resources, Division of Child Support Services (DCSS). The DCSS is able to work with parents and provide them with resources to collect from a non-paying parent. They have the ability to petition the courts on your behalf and can withhold child support payments from the other parent's paychecks, unemployment benefits, and workers' compensation benefits. Additionally, the DCSS can garnish the non-paying parent's tax refunds from both state and federal governments, filing liens on their real property in Georgia, or even getting the state to suspend or revoke the parent's driver's license or professional or occupational license.
Contempt Action with the Court
If you live in Georgia and have a child support order in place, it is important to understand the consequences of not complying with the court order. Contempt of child support order is defined as a willful refusal of a parent to follow a court order of child support. This means that if you fail to make the required payments or refuse to follow the terms of the order, you could be held in contempt by the court. The contempt power of the court is to ultimately throw someone in jail for non-compliance, unless and until they comply. It is important to note that while the court can enforce the order through penalties such as jail or sanctions, it cannot change or modify the order in a contempt action. It is in the best interest of everyone involved to comply with the order and seek legal help if necessary to modify the terms of the order.
Bringing a Contempt Action
When it comes to child support, ensuring that the other parent meets their financial obligation can be a major concern. Fortunately, in Georgia, there is a legal process for addressing this issue - that being to bring a contempt action. This means petitioning the court that originally made the order to enforce the child support order through the power of contempt. Though this may seem like a harsh measure, it can be effective in compelling the other parent to meet their obligation. Essentially, the court has the authority to order the non-paying parent to make the overdue payments or face incarceration. Alternatively, the court can jail the parent until they have paid off a set amount, called a purge amount. Regardless of which option is pursued, having a clear understanding of the process and procedures involved is essential.
Also, there are certain additional requirements that need to be met before a contempt action can be brought against the other parent. Specifically, you must be able to demonstrate that the other parent has the ability to pay, but is still choosing not to do so. This means that if the other parent has lost their job and is actively looking for new employment, they would not be held in contempt for non-payment of child support. However, they would still be responsible for any back-due support owed. It's important to remember that the court's main goal is to ensure that children receive the financial support they need, while also being fair to both parents. If you're unsure of whether your situation meets these requirements, it's always best to consult with a professional who can guide you through the process.
Fighting Against a Contempt Action
Navigating a child support contempt action filed against you in Georgia can be a stressful and overwhelming experience. However, there are ways to defend against it. If you can prove that you did in fact pay child support as ordered, then you would not be found in contempt, and the other parent may even have to pay your legal fees for having to defend an untrue, or frivolous, lawsuit.
Also, if you can show that your non-payment of child support, though not paid, was not willful, you may have a chance to avoid being found in contempt and going to jail. There are certain situations where this non-willful non-payment could apply, such as if you lose your job or your ability to earn income through no fault of your own. To protect yourself, it's recommended in these instances that you don't wait until contempt is filed against you. Instead, consider filing a separate action to modify child support while you search for a new job. And if you do have a contempt filed against you while you are trying to get back on your feet, you can still file for a modification of your child support amount, to help decrease what is owed while the contempt case is still pending. By taking proactive steps, you can alleviate some of the anxiety surrounding the child support process.
Another defense against willful contempt exists if you are the non-custodial parent who temporarily gained custody of the child but did not update the child support order. You can use this as a defense if the other parent tries to accuse you of contempt for not paying child support during that period. This is because the time when you had custody should not be counted as non-payment of child support. However, any missed payments will be required to be back-paid, unless and until you get a new court order with child support being paid from the other parent to you as the new custodial parent.
As such, in any of these cases, any amounts unpaid under the original order, even if you are not held in contempt, are still due by you to the other parent, up to the date that an order is changed under a separate modification of child support action. The only thing not being found in willful contempt does is keeps you out of jail and paying the other party's attorney's fees and costs of litigation. You still must pay any back-owed child support, up to the time a new court order is entered, establishing a new child support amount. Which can only be made through a modification action, not a contempt action.
How We Can Help
Ensuring that child support payments are being made can be a highly stressful process, whether you are the one entitled to receive child support or the one obligated to make the payments. That's why we at Your Law Firm are here to help. Our experienced legal team is well-versed in child support enforcement and can assist you in either pursuing a non-paying parent through a contempt action, or defending against an accusation of contempt. We understand that these situations can be emotionally charged, and we are committed to guiding you through every step of the legal process with professionalism and a friendly, supportive approach. Get in touch with us today to see how we can help secure the financial support necessary for your child's wellbeing.