Child support arrangements can be contentious, having the potential to significantly affect the financial stability of all parties participating in the agreement. If you're involved in a child support order, you may be wondering what the penalties are for falling behind on support.
Well, wonder no more. In today's blog, we're giving you a comprehensive overview of what you can expect if you fall behind on child support in Virginia.
How Can Parents Get Child Support Enforcement in VA?
If a parent misses child support payments, they're considered "delinquent" on child support. The Virginia Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE), a division under the Virginia Department of Social Services, is responsible for enforcing child support delinquency penalties.
If a parent falls behind on child support, it's up to the other parent to take action and address the issue. To notify the DCSE that a parent has fallen behind on child support, the noncustodial parent (or whichever parent receives support) must file an application for child support enforcement services with their local DCSE office.
To file an application with the DCSE, the parent seeking child support enforcement must provide the following documents:
- The current child support order they wish to enforce;
- Any administrative support orders related to the support arrangement, the child's medical condition, or any other factors pertinent to the case. If the child relies on child support payments for medication or medical treatment, this process can help the DCSE prioritize the case and ensure the child receives the care they need.
- Birth certificates for any children involved in the order;
- Paternity documents supporting the parental status of both parties;
- Guardianship orders appointing the applicant as the child's legal guardian, if it's relevant to the case;
- Any protective orders involving in the co-parenting arrangement.
Once the DCSE receives the application, the department will review it and decide what steps officials need to take to address any child support delinquency. Since the DCSE uses an online portal for child support payments, it's fairly easy for DCSE officials to confirm that a parent fails to comply with their child support obligations and take action against the delinquent individual.
What Are Child Support Delinquency Penalties in VA?
The DCSE can take the following actions against delinquency child support payors:
- Withholding income from a variety of sources. The DCSE can withhold income from wages, Social Security and unemployment benefits, Worker's Compensation, and veteran disability compensation.
- Placing liens on a delinquent's property;
- Garnishing state and federal tax refunds;
- Suspending transportation licenses (driver's license, pilot's license, etc.), as long as the delinquent parent is behind by 90 days or more.
- Reporting the delinquent parent's actions to credit bureaus, hurting their credit score.
- Voiding the delinquent's passport until they make up for missed child support.
The DCSE does not have complete authority to enforce child support delinquency. For example, the DCSE does not have the ability to jail child support delinquents by default. To jail an individual, DCSE professionals must file a contempt of court actions case against the child support payor, which can result in a jail sentence depending on the case.
The DCSE also cannot withhold a payor's wages if doing so would jeopardize the payor's ability to look after their own basic needs. In those cases, the DCSE may work with the payor to try and modify the child support order so they can feasibly handle their child support obligation.
The COVID-19 pandemic introduced another wrinkle into child support arrangements: stimulus checks. Government entities can seize the $1,200 COVID-19 stimulus intended to stimulate the economy if the recipient is delinquent on child support.
I'm Behind on Child Support—What Should I Do?
If you're behind on child support, your first priority should be consulting the DCSE to let DCSE officials know you're aware of the delinquency.
DCSE officials handle child support delinquency on a case-by-case basis. While some child support payors may refuse to comply with a support arrangement because they believe it's unfair or just don't want to, many simply lack the means to pay for their support obligation due to circumstances outside of their control. For example, a payor might lose their job, making them incapable of paying for child support due to a loss of income.
If DCSE officials determine a parent cannot pay for child support due to a substantial change in circumstances (a medical emergency, losing their job, etc.), they'll often try to help them get back on track. If the loss in income is temporary, DCSE may help the delinquent parent set up a repayment program. If the delinquent parent's circumstances have changed for the foreseeable future, the DCSE may work with them to file a modification case with the court, helping the delinquent parent obtain a more equitable support arrangement.
Whatever the case, being honest and forthright with DCSE officials is your best recourse if you can't pay for child support. The more forthcoming and proactive you are when dealing with your delinquency, the more amicable DCSE officials are likely to be.
At the Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller, we help clients obtain equitable child support orders that allow their child to thrive.