What Can I Do if My Former Spouse Stops Paying Child Support?

Board Certified Family Law Specialist Matt Arnold answers the question: “How is the amount of child support decided in North Carolina?”


When parents divorce, they are still required to provide for their children’s regular and ongoing needs. Typically, children reside primarily with one parent while the other parent has visitation and is required to pay support. Children are entitled to support from their parents in order to lead a happy and healthy life. Unfortunately, sometimes a former spouse gets behind on child support payments or stops paying altogether. When this occurs, there are some things that the primary custodial parent can do to resolve the matter.


Formal Child Support Order


Some couples have informal or verbal agreements for child support. However, these agreements can quickly go by the wayside when disagreements occur or when circumstances change. A formal child support order is always the best way to ensure that your child will receive an adequate amount of money to pay for living expenses. Child support is a part of every divorce. But when a couple is not married, the non-custodial parent is still supposed to pay child support. A court order provides the child with money for their basic living expenses and other important care, such as medical needs.


Do Not Accept Excuses


When the other parent falls behind on child support, makes lower payments than they should, or does not pay at all, it is up to the custodial parent to take action. The child is entitled to support for their needs. Although you may be tempted to agree to accept lower payments or to take late payments, this can be a poor strategy in the long run. The parent will often fail to make promised payments and only fall further and further behind. Custodial parents should not take matters into their own hands. It is important to note that you cannot withhold visitation because child support payments are behind or missing.



Petition the Court


If you have a child support order in place, the way to resolve late payments or payments that have stopped completely is through the court system. Petition the court to obtain a hearing on the matter. The judge will review the situation and will determine how to proceed. The goal is to obtain payment from the delinquent parent. There are several options that the judge may put in place such as:


  • Order for automatic deductions. The judge may require child support payments to be deducted from the parent’s account. The payments will go through North Carolina Child Support Services.
  • Taking control of the parent’s tax return money and any other funds that might be owed, such as lottery winnings.
  • Filing a lien on the parent’s property until such time as the child support payments are current.
  • Suspension of driver’s license until support is up-to-date.
  • Taking the parent’s passport until child support payments are made.


When a parent has not made proper child support payments in accordance with a court order, the parent may file a motion for contempt. If a judge finds the parent is in contempt the consequences could include a potential jail sentence. The threat of jail time is often enough to convince a delinquent parent to pay what is owed. If the parent gets behind again in the future, you can again take steps to legally resolve the matter.


In some situations, the only way to resolve a child support dispute is through the court system. To seek the help you need, please contact us today to get a phone, video or in-person consultation by calling at (704) 370-2828 to speak with our detail-oriented and well-versed lawyers with offices in Charlotte, Lake Norman, and Monroe, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today or find additional resources here.






The family law practice group at Arnold & Smith, PLLC includes four Board-Certified Family Law specialists and one Child Welfare Law specialist, as well as several attorneys with many years of family law experience that are committed to providing a powerful voice to individuals facing the often-tumultuous issues in this area of law. The range of issues our family law clients may be facing include pre- and post-nuptial agreements; separation agreements; post-separation support; child support (both temporary and permanent); absolute divorce; divorce from bed and board; military divorce; equitable distribution of assets; child custody (both temporary and permanent); retirement benefits and divorce; alimony and spousal support; adoption; and emancipation. Because this area of the law is usually emotionally charged and complicated, the family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC act with the utmost dedication to ensure that each client understands his or her options, and then act to achieve the best result possible for that client’s particular situation.




child support | Wex | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute (cornell.edu)


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