What Happens if I Refuse to Pay Child Support?

If you are no longer with the other parent of your child, then you could be ordered by a court to pay child support as both parents are typically held financially responsible for the well-being of each child that results after being in a relationship.

You’ll usually be directed as to how much to pay and when those payments need to be made, such as once a month or when you receive a payment from a job. In the event that you do not pay child support as ordered, there are some consequences that you could face.  

Driving Privileges

After missing a few payments, you could be ordered to surrender your driver’s license for a short time until you can show that you can make payments on time. The child support agency in your state typically reports payments that are made to the Division of Motor Vehicles, and the court can order that your license is to be suspended or that it can’t be renewed for a set length of time.  

Wage Withholding

If you’re unable to make child support payments on your own, then the court or Department of Social Services in your county could order that your paycheck or another source of income be garnished.

A certain amount would be taken from each check so that it satisfies the court order. This means that you won’t be able to keep all of the money that you make from each pay period. It’s important that you report any changes in income to the court so that the amount taken from each check is correct.  


If you only miss a payment or two, then you might be able to pay a fine and begin making payments as you’re supposed to instead of facing other consequences.

Some of the consequences that you could avoid include:

  • Going to jail
  • Not having a passport
  • Shorter visitations

Most fines are increased as the number of offenses increases. This means that you would pay more money in fines if you continue to refuse to make child support payments. Fines could be taken from your federal or state refund check or from payments that you get from working.  


If you enjoy traveling, then you want to ensure that you make child support payments on time as your passport could be taken or denied. You would need to wait the specified length of time to obtain a new passport, which is usually a time given by the court. If you travel for work, then this could be a hindrance that you can’t afford to have.  

Jail Time

In some states, refusing to pay child support could put you behind bars. For instance, under California child support laws, you could be charged with “contempt” of court and be sent to jail if you fail to make payments on time. But the contempt motion must be filed within three years from the time a child support payment was due and not paid.

You’ll usually be ordered to spend a minimal amount of time in jail, to begin with, before lengthy sentences are ordered. Most of the time, a 30-day sentence is imposed in the beginning. If you fail to make payments over the course of several months or years, then you could be ordered to spend years in jail until the payments are made.  

Federal Charges

Sometimes, you could be federally charged if you fail to make child support payments. This typically occurs if you owe child support in one state and then move to another state without letting the court or your DSS worker know.

Some of the things that the court would need to show are that you willingly failed to make payments, that you have been able to make payments on time, and that the payments are at least a year in arrears.

About the Author:

While she had a solid education in law, Lynda King wanted more than a job as a lawyer. She knew that people needed information and a better understanding of everyday legal matters, so she began writing articles and guidelines to educate individuals and businesses. Now, Lynda is collaborating with Farzad & Ochoa Family Law Attorneys, being proud that her knowledge and writing talent are helping everyone every day.


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