Child support can be a source of incredible stress and conflict. As attorneys who have provided over twenty years of legal representation in family law matters, we have seen it all. The reason that child support in particular gets heated is because it combines the two elements that can independently ignite arguing couples: money and children. It is unfortunate that children are caught up in these battles. In fact, a study by Health and Human Services in North Carolina showed that over $280 million in child support went unpaid in 2014 alone! So the key question is: what happens when a parent fails to pay child support?
Child Support Arrears
Court ordered child support payments that are unpaid after their due date are referred to as “arrears.” This can include any court-ordered child support, such as unpaid payments, unpaid medical or educational expenses, or other child-related expenses. These arrears continue to build, or “accrue”, until they are paid. In addition, once a child support obligation accrues, it becomes “vested”, which generally makes it legally binding and not subject to modification.
There are times when child support arrears do not accrue, including: (1) the death of the child; (2) the death of the parent ordered to pay support; (3) the incarceration of the paying parent, who lacks the resources to pay; (4) when the child lives with the paying parent; or (5) when the paying parent’s rights to the child are terminated or the child is adopted by someone else.
Can Arrears be Forgiven?
If you are having trouble making child support payments, it is best to speak with an attorney before it goes past due and accrues. An attorney can seek to modify child support payments before they go unpaid. Unfortunately, the legal options are limited once they vest.
In fact, the North Carolina General Statutes explicitly state that “[e]ach past due child support payment is vested when it accrues and may not thereafter be vacated, reduced, or otherwise modified in any way for any reason.” A limited exception to this is if the party receiving child support files a motion to modify a support payment before it is due; however, this party is under no obligation to do this.
New Direction Family Law
Failure to pay child support can have very serious consequences, including wage withholding, loss of driver’s license, suspension of professional and business licenses, and even incarceration. If you are not receiving court ordered child support or you are having trouble making payments, contact New Direction Family Law. We will conduct a thorough look into your circumstances and child support order, then provide you with no-nonsense advice. Let us help you. We serve Wake, Johnston, Lee, Harnett, Cumberland, Nash, Granville, Franklin, and Durham counties. Call our office at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an appointment or reach us online at our website.
Sarah J. Hink
New Direction Family Law