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Can I Go To Jail For Failing To Pay Spousal or Child Support?

DiPietro Law Group, PLLC

Spousal support or alimony and child support are important matters that arise in any divorce and/or child custody case. While there are a variety of different spousal support schemes that can be ordered by the court, the amount and duration of which will depend on the financial circumstances of both you and your ex as well as the duration of your marriage; Virginia child support guidelines are more definite and will depend on you and your ex’s gross annual income, the cost of daycare and healthcare for your children as well as whether you or your ex support any children from another relationship, and child support will typically be required until your children reach the age of majority.

So what happens if you or your ex fails to pay child support? The answer is: a lot of things can happen. A court can garnish your wages as well as grant and enforce levies on your personal property if you fail to pay spousal support. In addition to these remedies, a court can also garnish your income tax return(s), take away your business/professional license(s) as well as your driver’s license if you fail to pay child support.

But can you go to jail for not making spousal or child support payments? The answer is: YES!

If you violate a spousal or child support order issued by the court, the judge can find you in contempt of a court order for failing to pay. According to Section 20-115 of the Virginia Code, the court has authority to sentence you to jail for a period of time not exceeding one year (12 months). Moreover, during this time, the court can order you to participate in a work release program or to perform public service works. Any money you receive from this work will be used to pay down the amount of spousal or child support that you owe.

Additionally, according to Section 16.1-292 of the Virginia Code, the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court has authority to sentence you to jail for a period of up to 12 months for failing to pay child support. And, like the circuit court, the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court can order you to participate in a work release program and apply any money you earn towards the amount of child support that you owe.

As you can see, spousal support—and particularly child support—arrearage(s) cases are very serious and can lead to serious consequences. For this reason, you should always pay your spousal and/or child support obligations. If your financial circumstances change to the point that you can no longer afford to pay the amount(s) of your spousal or child support obligation(s), then you must file a petition to modify the spousal or child support order due to a material change in circumstances – before failing to pay your support requirements.

If you are going through a spousal or child support issue, you need the help of a knowledgeable family law attorney who can fight for your rights and get you the support payments that you deserve. The qualified family law attorneys at the DiPietro Family Law Group have years of experience representing spouses and parents in all types of spousal and/or child support cases. Call us today for a consultation with a caring professional at (888) 530-4374 or contact us online.


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