When a couple divorces with children under the age of 18, they will have to set up child support obligations. Specific guidelines mathematically determine a parent’s financial obligation to the child. Once determined, how is child support enforced? What happens if a parent does not pay? Are parents ever put in jail because of failure to pay?

Circumstances matter

The circumstances surrounding one parent’s failure to pay her or his child support obligation matters. If the father is not making his payments because he financially cannot do so through no fault of his own, typically, he will not receive the harshest punishments. However, if that same father purposely quit his job knowing that he had the support obligation, then a judge may impute income to him and treat him as if he were receiving the same pay he had while on the job. Say that a mother who owes support obligations stops paying for whatever reason, or no reason at all. She would be in danger of getting the harshest of punishments because the court does not look kindly on willful failure to pay.

 Enforcing support

In Gulfport, the first enforcement action is typically an income withholding order. After the parent’s employer receives such an order, the employer must garnish the parent’s wages to meet the support obligation. If for any reason this does not work, the next step is typically a suspension of the offender’s driver’s license and any professional license that he or she may hold. If none of these tactics work, the court may consider jail time.

Jail time is not the enforcement strategy of choice because if a parent is in jail, she or he cannot make money and cannot pay child support. The law provides for up to two years in prison for willful failure to pay child support in Mississippi. Although not used often, it is a remedy that judges can utilize for parents who refuse to pay.