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What are the consequences for failing to pay child support?

Parents in Washington are under an obligation to support their child. Whether they are married, divorced, in a relationship or separated, both of a child's parents must see to it that the child has food, clothing, shelter and more. A child deserves to get a proper education, to engage in extracurricular activities, to have ways to be entertained, and more. Therefore, when a parent in Washington is ordered to pay child support, and fails to do so, there could be negative consequences.

If a court finds that the paying parentis able to pay part or all of what is owed, the paying parent may be held in contempt of court. They could be fined, or even be incarcerated. There are other penalties that may apply as well.

For example, a person's wages, unemployment compensation or workers' compensation could be garnished. If a person has a pension that doesn't receive federal protection, this can be garnished as well. Any settlements the paying parent receives from a legal action can be seized, as can money in a parent's bank account. The parent could have a lien placed on their house or automobile. A person's driver's license, professional licenses or recreational licenses could be suspended. A person's federal tax refund may be seized. A parent may not be allowed to renew their passport. Finally, the sum of the amount owed may be reported to a credit agency as an unpaid debt.

This list is not all-exhaustive, but as it shows, the penalties for failing to pay child support are not pretty. Moreover, when child support goes unpaid ultimately it is the child who suffers the most. Therefore, it is important for parents to make full and timely child support payments. If they are unable to do so, they may want to seek a modification of the amount owed as soon as possible, to avoid falling farther behind in payment and incurring additional penalties.

Source: FindLaw, "Washington Child Support Enforcement," accessed January 14, 2017

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