Whether you hold an understandable grudge against your ex for winning custody or you're having a hard time getting your life together, failure to pay child support carries serious consequences. Despite the fact that your child or children aren't with you, you're still expected to do your part in financially supporting them. Here's what could happen if you continue to neglect this legal responsibility:

Your Driving Privileges Could Be Revoked

The Department of Motor Vehicles works cooperatively with agencies enforcing child support laws; thus, if you are in arrears of payment, the DMV could be quick to revoke your driving privileges, leaving you unable to get to a job or even to visit your children. The process of renewing a revoked license can be costly and frustrating, and that's just not something you want to have to deal with, especially if other areas of your life seem to be falling apart. Keep in contact with your ex, even when you can't offer the obligatory child support, as remaining on speaking terms might buy you time, allowing you to get things together.

If You Have A Job, The Court Can Take Your Wages

Expect automatic garnishment of your wages if the court steps in, leaving you with less money to live. If you were holding back child support payments out of anger or resentment that you didn't get custody, there will be nothing you can do to stop this from happening. If you failed to pay because you simply can't afford to, start looking into other resources for your needs, such as assistance programs for rent and utilities and local food banks. Don't feel ashamed to lean on these services, as going without food, having your electricity shut off, or being evicted are all far worse than feeling self-conscious about asking for help. If you let things get that far out of hand, eventual financial (and emotional) recovery will be all the more difficult.

If your working hours have been reduced by your employer or if you've lost a job, contact your ex and the courts immediately to have your child support payments adjusted accordingly. It's wise to have a lawyer to help you do this, as the consequences can be dire, and bills tend to pile up very quickly under such circumstances.

Failure To Pay Fees Will Add Up Quickly

Beyond wage garnishment, the court will impose fees for your lack of payment, and they will only add to the financial burden you're facing.

Ultimately, You Could End Up In Jail

Unfortunately, the court may find you in contempt for failing to follow the order to pay child support and sentence you to jail time. Jail would not preclude you from making payments, though, forcing you to file a petition with the court for a temporary reduction in the amount you pay. Despite the obvious disadvantages of going to jail, if it ever does come to this for you, there are some ways in which you can take advantage of the situation:

  • Use work programs in jail to increase your skills and become more employable.
  • Contact places like Goodwill or America Works, who support you in not just finding a job when you're released, but also coach you to long-term success.
  • Find out about a tax benefit for employers who hire felons, public assistance recipients and other people in need of a hand to further boost your odds.

What You Need To Do, Right Now

No matter how far behind you are on child support payments or how much you feel your life is in shamble, due to not having a job and not having custody of your children, you have to plow through your emotions and make an effort with the courts and with your ex. Make contact with your ex and politely inform them that you're going to do the right thing, even if it takes time. Contact a child support attorney to help you work through the process and perhaps buy a little time. You should also get a job as soon as possible, even if it feels menial or is beneath your education and experience level.

Your local government may be able to help you out in supporting yourself as you try to become employed, along with job training. No matter what, though, do not ignore the notices you receive about paying the child support, and don't ignore any court dates. Showing up on time, presenting yourself in a professional manner and asking for the court for understanding (of your situation) will all work in your favor; however, you're going to have to come up with the money sometime and may need a lawyer in the meantime.

Don't Give Up!

No matter how challenging your life seems or how hard it is to keep up with child support payments, all while missing your children, you have to keep yourself together for their sake and yours. Seek out help in any form that you may need, from food assistance to legal counseling to substance abuse treatment, and don't give up. Some states offer special programs for people just like you, who may only need a break in finding a decent job or transportation getting to one. Help is out there, and if you can find it, then keep your nose to the grindstone; you should be able to climb out of the hole you're in and lift yourself up to much higher ground.