December 12, 2022

When Might There Be a Civil Contempt Hearing Over Child Support?

In Michigan, child support orders are expected to be followed. That means the parent who has been ordered to make the payments must do so on time and in full. The receiving parent might not know what options are available if the payments are late, there is underpayment or they are not paid at all.

One way to get the payments and hold the payer accountable is by seeking a civil contempt action. Knowing what this entails and how it might help to get what is owed is critical to a case. When this happens, it is also useful to have guidance.

Understanding civil contempt for unpaid or underpaid child support

After the support is late or unpaid, there can be a civil contempt action by the Friend of the Court or a party connected to the court order. This is also referred to as a “show cause” hearing. The payer will be obligated to appear with the potential for a bench warrant if they fail to do so.

The court will assess the circumstances and make its decision. It can find the paying party in civil contempt. It may then order the necessary payments to be made or the payer will be sent to jail.

There are ways for the court to get the person to pay apart from sending them to jail. These include a lien where their property can be taken to pay the debt; denying their attempt to secure a passport; facing a driver’s license or professional license suspension or a boot being placed on their vehicle so they cannot drive it.

They can also be ordered to take part in various programs to address issues such as parenting, substance abuse, and more. In some cases, the person is capable of working but does not have a job. In that situation, the court will simply order the person to find some form of employment.

With delinquent child support, it is wise to consult with qualified professionals

This is generally perceived as a last resort and is not designed to punish but to get the person to pay. In some cases, there are extenuating circumstances that might justify a modification. In others, the sides can negotiate to avoid making it worse by giving these penalties.

Regardless, having help with these complex and personal issues is key to reaching a positive outcome. For advice with child support or any other family law concern, calling experienced people who have a wealth of knowledge in these cases can be essential to finding a workable solution.