All parents are required to provide support for their minor children. After a divorce, this support will come in the form of a monetary payment to aid in providing for the child’s daily expenses and needs. At times, parents experience financial difficulties or other extenuating circumstances that can lead to late payments or prevent them from paying child support altogether. In response, the state of Oklahoma has numerous strategies in place to enforce child support orders and collect past due child support funds.
This brief overview will outline what happens when an Oklahoma parent fails to pay child support. If you cannot pay your child support payments or need additional guidance to determine your next steps, begin by consulting with an Oklahoma City child support attorney.
About Child Support in Oklahoma
When an Oklahoma couple begins divorce proceedings, the courts consult a series of statutes that outline how to assign child support obligations to each parent. Depending on each parent’s income levels, the number of children in need of support, the general cost of supporting the children, and the amount of time the children will live with each parent, a formula determines the amount of child support that is recommended. At this point, the parents can agree on a child support amount, or a judge can establish the specific amount that must be paid.
Child support payments begin when a judge authorizes a court order to make the child support enforceable by the state. Oklahoma requires income assignment to collect child support, which causes a garnishment of one parent’s wages to fulfill the child support obligation. However, if both parents agree, the court may waive the income assignment.
What Happens When You Are Unable to Pay Child Support in Oklahoma?
If you have experienced job loss, disability, injury, or another life-altering circumstance that has made it difficult or impossible to keep up with your child support payments, it is crucial to address the issue as soon as possible. With the proper steps, you may be able to utilize the services of an Oklahoma City family law attorney to file a petition to request a modification to your child support obligation. If you take no action and instead fall behind on child support payments, the child’s custodial parent can request help from the courts or the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.
Enforcement options through the court include:
- Contempt of court and criminal contempt of court. The non-custodial parent or the local district attorney may file a court motion ordering you to appear in court and explain your non-payment. Depending on the severity of the delinquency and the amount in arrears, you may be required to serve 30 to 90 days in jail and pay a lump sum of your past-due child support. If you are severely delinquent and held in criminal contempt of court, you may be charged with a misdemeanor or felony and receive up to four years in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Enforcement options through Oklahoma DHS include:
- Garnishment and withholding orders. Without initiating court proceedings, the DHS can garnish or seize your wages, unemployment, retirement, disability benefits, and even your lottery winnings or insurance proceeds.
- Income tax interception. DHS can intercept Oklahoma income tax returns, federal income tax returns, or both, and direct the funds to pay back child support.
- Bank account withdrawals and property attachment. DHS can forcibly remove funds from bank accounts or attach liens to your properties.
- Driver’s license suspension. DHS can request that state driver’s licenses—including commercial licenses and state-issued IDs—be suspended until payment occurs.
- Passport suspension. Your passport may be suspended, restricted, or refused in severe cases where you owe over $5,000 in child support.
- Professional and recreational license suspension. The DHS can also request that other licenses supplied by Oklahoma or local county entities, including professionally held licenses and recreational licenses, be refused or suspended.
Seek Assistance From a Qualified Oklahoma City Child Support Attorney
In addition to the above penalties, failing to pay child support can negatively affect your credit, your relationship with the other parent, and even your relationship with your child—that is why it is so critical to ensure you remain up to date with your child support obligation. However, if you are experiencing certain personal or financial difficulties, there are options available to help you make payments without enduring severe financial distress or experiencing the consequences listed above. Your first step is to consult with an Oklahoma City child support attorney.
As an experienced Oklahoma family law firm with over a decade of experience handling child support obligation obstacles, Stange Law Firm can help you begin the steps necessary to make payments affordable for you. Contact us at (855) 055-0595 or request an initial consultation to learn more about how we can help you.