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Child support – what happens if you fail to pay in Washington?

When someone fails to make court ordered child support payments, does not pay spousal maintenance or alimony, or fails to follow a parenting plan that person can be found in contempt. Contempt is intentional disobedience of any lawful judgment, decree, order, or process of the court. A party can be held in contempt of court if he or she refuses to follow the requirements of a temporary or a final order.

A person can be found in contempt of a child support order when an individual fails to pay child support or other obligations relating to the children’s needs under that order; such as, work-related daycare, sports or other extracurricular activities, or uninsured medical. If the court finds contempt, the court can reduce the unpaid back support to a judgment, award back interest (12% per annum) against the judgment, order the non compliant parent to pay the other parent a civil penalty of not less than $100.00, and order the party found in contempt to pay the other party’s reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. Lastly, a parent may be imprisoned until he or she agrees to comply with the order.

In some cases, the contempt is clear where a parent expresses disagreement with the order and clearly states his or her intention that the parent will not comply with the order. “I’m not paying you ________….” Insert what applies to your situation whether it be child support; a parent’s share of work-related daycare expenses, sports or extracurricular activities, or uninsured medical expenses. If a parent has flat out told you that he or she will not pay a court ordered financial obligation relating to support of the child, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney to discuss filing for contempt and remedies to ensure the other parent’s compliance.

People may also encounter situations where they find they are suddenly unable to make their support payments. Perhaps an unexpected and unintentional change occurred in an individual’s financial circumstances; such as, job loss, medical emergency, or a temporary disability. Rather than stop paying child support entirely-which will cause you to get behind, allows for back interest to accrue and subject yourself to contempt-consider paying what you can toward the child support. This will lessen the amount of back support that you will eventually owe. Also meet with a family law lawyer to see if your child support can be adjusted or modified, at least, on a temporary basis, until you are able to get back on your feet.