It Is a Crime
Video Transcribed: My name is Brian L. Jackson, and I am a dad’s attorney in Tulsa. And today, I’d like to talk a little bit about what happens if you don’t pay your child support.
Recently, guys, I’ve seen a lot of comments on the Tulsa Father’s Rights support group which I’m a member of, about whether or not you should pay child support, and even going as far as to say that it’s a scam. Political feelings about child support aside, and whether or not it’s a good policy, because I think that’s a separate discussion and it’s beyond the scope of what I’m trying to do here, child support is the law. And it’s pretty unambiguous. If you have a child support order out against you, it is not an optional thing. You must pay.
And if you don’t pay, you’re defying a court order, which is in fact a crime. It’s also civilly actionable as contempt of court. And if you incur a high enough debt, then it can also potentially constitute a felony of felony failure to pay child support.
So what happens to you if you don’t pay? Well, the first thing that’s probably going to happen to you is, if you have a DHS case open, DHS will begin to take collection action against you. One of the things they like to do is they’ll reduce arrearages to a judgment and do what’s called a personal lien against you, which basically means they’re going to file that judgment with the county clerk in the county where you live.
And that judgment then becomes a lien against all your property. Do you want to sell your house? You got to pay your child support first. Do you want to sell any other personal property? That lien can attach and you may have to pay your child support out of the proceeds. They can take your tax return if you owe child support. If you get any other money like that, they can take it. You get a judgment in civil court, they can put a lien against that. They can garnish your wages.
Then it gets worse from there. In Tulsa County, we have a docket here that deals especially with people who are cited for delinquent child support, and it’s called, “The Rocket Docket,” and there’s a reason for that.
One of the consequences for not paying child support is that your child’s mother, ex-spouse, however, you were related to her, and or the Department of Human Services can file a citation for contempt against you for violating a child support order. And civil contempt can carry both fines and jail time, in addition to what you may already owe in child support. And it’s up to six months in the county jail. And I don’t think I need to tell you, jail sucks.
And the Rocket Docket got its nickname because they move those cases real quick. You can go from being cited to being on trial to being tossed in jail within a few months. And the judges on that docket routinely put delinquent fathers in jail for non-payment, even if the mother says, “Don’t jail him, I want the money.” So it’s a big deal, and it carries serious consequences, and you do not want that to be you.
Now, if you do find yourself in a situation where you cannot pay, either because you’ve lost your job or some other exigent circumstances have occurred, the first thing you want to do is hire a good lawyer and ask them about filing a motion to modify child support. There is a procedure for that.
There’s a correct way to handle that situation. It is not allowing massive delinquency. If you do that, you’re going to get jammed up. And I can tell you from personal experience and knowledge, as someone who practices in this area regularly, child support delinquency is really taken seriously and it can really hurt you. And they, the state’s attorneys through the Department of Human Services, and private attorneys and judges come at this very aggressively, and they will come after you.
And something else to be aware of, as well. If you are involved in custody litigation, or you’re dealing with a situation where your child’s mother is not letting you see the child, we talked earlier about parental alienation. Owing child support will not help you, especially if you’re trying to convince a court to give you custody, because the court’s liable to look at it from the standpoint of, “You don’t care enough to pay to support your child, and now you’re asking me to give you custody?” The courts will look at it as “Obviously you only want custody so you can get out of paying.” So again, don’t do that.
I can understand the temptation not to pay if it seems like it’s excessive, or worse if you’re dealing with a situation where she’s not letting you see the kids. You have remedies to deal with refusal of visitation in the form of contempt of court citations, and in the form of a motion to enforce. Withholding child support is not a legal remedy to that, and it will get you jammed up, and it may make it harder later for you to convince the judge that they need to come down on your ex-wife, or your baby mama if you owe money. So don’t let that be you.
My name is Brian L. Jackson, we’ve been talking about what happens if you do not pay your child support in Oklahoma. If you find yourself in a situation where you can’t pay, or where you’re being denied visitation and you don’t think you should have to pay, call me, I’ll help you out. Don’t take matters into your own hands and stop paying. And don’t let your ability to not pay result in massive delinquency, it’s not going to help you.