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Don't get behind the 8 ball when it comes to child support

Like most Louisiana parents, you probably take your commitment to your children seriously. This includes your financial obligations. Even so, sometimes paying child support becomes a burden that you can't keep up with each month due to a variety of circumstances. Simply ignoring that obligation comes with some serious penalties that might jeopardize your work and personal life.

What could happen if I don't pay?

The law allows several options for collecting past due payments:

  • The amount you owe plus any overdue amounts could be taken out of your paycheck (a garnishment).
  • The state could seize your federal and state tax refunds.
  • The state could seize your property.
  • You could face suspension of your driver's license while you have overdue payments.
  • If you are a professional such as a doctor, lawyer or teacher, you could face suspension of your professional license.
  • If you have some sort of business license, the state could suspend it.

The measures taken to collect past due payments often depend on the amount you owe. In extreme cases, the court could sentence you to jail time. Fortunately, most jurisdictions are sensitive to the fact that you can't pay child support from behind bars, so courts often use this as a last resort.

Even if you don't live in the same state as your children or as the court that issued the most recent order, you could face these penalties.

So what do I do?

As soon as you know that you can no longer make your payments in accordance with the order, you should go to the court to seek a modification of your current child support order. For instance, if you lost your job, you could ask the court to reduce or suspend your payments, at least until you obtain comparable employment to the job you lost. If your circumstances won't improve anytime soon, the court could permanently change the amount you owe.

It's crucial that you don't wait until you already have past due payments to seek help. A modification of your child support order only applies to future payments. You remain responsible for the payments you missed. You should also know that withholding child support due to a denial of visitation will not sway the court. Your financial obligations to your children remain separate from any issues you have with the other parent and your right to see your children.

If you file bankruptcy due to your financial situation, you can't discharge your past due child support payments. Your best course of action is to petition the court for relief if you can't make your payments. In order to do so, you need to prove a significant change in your circumstances. Having an attorney to advocate for you could increase your chances of proving to the court that you need help meeting your financial obligations to your children.

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