What Happens if You Fail to Pay Child Support in Tennessee?
Expect Some Tough Love from the State if You Do Not Pay Up
Paying child support is not optional in Tennessee. If a child support order is entered, then you must pay every month. In most situations, parents will have an Income Withholding Order put in place, which will deduct the amount owed from the parent’s paycheck. If this was not an option, then parents can make payment using a MoneyGram or online processor.
There are serious penalties for not paying child support in this state. Below, our attorney reviews some of the more troublesome.
You Can Owe Interest
Unpaid child support is called “arrearages,” and arrearages accrue as child support becomes due. The parent who receives support can go into court and get a judgment for the arrearages owed, and the judgment can include all of the following:
- The amount owed in unpaid child support
- Interest on unpaid support
- Court costs to bring the action
As you can see, the amount you might owe could substantially exceed the amount that you failed to pay. For example, you might owe $5,000. But an additional 12% interest might be charged, bringing the amount to $5,600. Several hundred dollars could also be added for court costs.
Your Wages Can be Garnished
The parent who is owed child support can have your wages garnished. This means that the money will automatically be deducted from your paycheck. Under Tennessee law, a parent can have up to 50% of his or her wages garnished to pay for child support.
You Can Lose Your License
Those with child support arrearages can have any of the following licenses suspended:
- Driver’s license
- Hunting or fishing license
- Professional or occupational license
- Business license
Parents have 20 days to arrange to make payment, otherwise the license will be suspended. They can also request a hearing to explain why they had good cause not to pay, but these arguments are difficult to win.
You Can be Held in Contempt
Refusing to comply with a court order can result in a contempt finding by the judge. A judge will try to coerce you into paying the child support by fining you or possibly even sending you to jail as a last resort. When you finally pay what you owe, you can “purge” the contempt.
You Can be Sent to Jail
If a parent willfully refuses to pay child support, he or she can be jailed as punishment. This is a little different than civil contempt, where jail is used to coerce a delinquent parent to pay. Here, jail is ordered to punish the parent.
Terminating or Modifying an Order
Circumstances change, and your old child support order might not be realistic. For example, you might have lost your job or become disabled, which has caused a serious drop in your income.
It is vitally important to realize that you cannot simply stop paying child support, regardless of your life situation. Instead, you need a judge to agree to a modification or termination. If you stop paying, then any unpaid child support will continue to accrue, and you could face any of the punishments above.
Contact a Manchester, TN Family Law Attorney
Burch & Lockhart has handled many modification hearings for clients. Please reach out to us today to schedule your free initial consultation.