Child support is based on a binding court order. It's not something parents do to be kind to their kids or to help out an ex. As such, they can't stop paying simply because they don't want to or because they failed to save up enough money after other expenses. It's a mandatory payment that has to be met.
That's not to say it can't be altered. People do lose their jobs or run into other financial hardships. The court can then lower the payments. However, parents who have been ordered to pay are obligated to keep paying, in full, until they get an official modification from the court.
So, what happens if a parent fails to pay? Depending on the situation, and taking into account the amount that is owed, the court can:
- Issue a warrant for that parent's arrest. In the most serious cases, people can go to jail for failing to pay what they owe.
- Suspend the person's driver's license. It may also be possible to suspend professional licenses that the person holds and needs for his or her employment.
- Seize physical assets that the person owns. If these assets are sold off, the money from those sales can then help with the debt.
- Take the money a parent was going to get for a tax refund. As you can imagine, it's not hard for the government to deny this money, as they're the ones authorizing the refund.
- Garnish the person's wages until their back payment obligations have been met.
As you can see, failing to pay child support is quite serious. It's important for parents on both ends to know their legal rights.
Source: The Law Dictionary, "What Happens When You Don'T Pay Child Support?," J. Herby, accessed Jan. 19, 2018