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A closer look at how North Carolina collects past due child support - II

Last month, our blog started discussing how North Carolina relies on a child support collection model known as income withholding. To recap, this is essentially a system whereby an employer will automatically withhold a predetermined amount of child support from an employee's paycheck and forward it to the Child Support Centralized Collection.

We also discussed how the Child Support Enforcement Agency has other mechanisms in place to help cover those situations where income withholding proves ineffective, including driver's license suspension, professional license suspension, liens and collection from other income sources.

It's important for custodial parents owed child support to understand that the availability of these mechanisms doesn't mean that they are somehow unable to go to court to seek enforcement of child support obligations.

To the contrary, they can serve the delinquent parent with what is known as a Motion and Order to Show Cause, which will result in a hearing before a judge. During this hearing, both parents will be given the opportunity to address the court and the judge will weigh whether the delinquent parent did indeed have the ability to pay the amount owed.

In the event the judge finds that the delinquent parent deliberately chose not to pay child support despite having the ability to do so, they may find them be in contempt, meaning they may be subject to the aforementioned enforcement mechanisms, as well as fines, conditions (looking for employment, etc.) and even jail time.

The important point to take from this, however, is that a parent cannot simply be arrested and thrown in jail for failing to make child support payments.

Furthermore, it's worth noting that if a delinquent parent is sent to jail, the judge will set an amount that must be paid in order to secure their freedom (i.e., a purge) and that once this amount is paid, it will be applied toward the back child support.

Anyone with concerns relating to the enforcement of child support should give serious consideration to speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about their rights and their options.