Child support is a critical financial obligation designed to ensure the well-being and financial stability of children in separated or divorced families. However, life's challenges can sometimes lead individuals to fall behind on their child support payments. In this article, we explore the consequences of falling behind on child support and discuss potential legal and financial repercussions.

Legal Consequences

  1. Accumulation of Arrears: When child support payments are not made as scheduled, the unpaid amount accumulates as arrears. Arrears represent the total amount of missed payments and can quickly become a substantial financial burden for the parent who falls behind. Some programs have been put in place to help ease the burden of child support, such as the California child support arrears forgiveness program.
  2. Legal Action: State child support agencies have the authority to take legal action against parents who fail to meet their child support obligations. This legal action can include wage garnishment, where a portion of the parent's income is automatically withheld to cover child support payments.
  3. Contempt of Court Charges: Failure to comply with a court-ordered child support arrangement may result in contempt of court charges. Courts take child support orders seriously, and violating them can lead to fines, penalties, and, in extreme cases, imprisonment.

Financial Repercussions

  1. Credit Damage: Unpaid child support can negatively impact the non-compliant parent's credit score. The accumulation of arrears and legal actions taken against them may be reported to credit bureaus, making it challenging to secure loans, credit cards, or other financial services.
  2. License Suspension: Some states have the authority to suspend various licenses, including driver's licenses and professional licenses, for individuals who fall significantly behind on child support payments. This measure is designed to encourage compliance by affecting the non-compliant parent's ability to work and commute.
  3. Seizure of Assets: In extreme cases, the court may order the seizure of assets to satisfy overdue child support payments. This could include bank accounts, real estate, or other valuable assets owned by the parent who has fallen behind.

Steps to Address If Falling Behind

  1. Communication with the Other Parent: Open communication is crucial. If financial circumstances change, it's essential to discuss the situation with the other parent. In some cases, a modified payment plan can be negotiated.
  2. Modification of Child Support Order: If the parent's financial situation has significantly changed, they may petition the court for a modification of the child support order. Courts may adjust the amount based on changes in income, employment status, or other relevant factors.
  3. Seek Legal Counsel: Consulting with a family law attorney is advisable if falling behind on child support payments becomes a persistent issue. An attorney can provide guidance on legal options and potential modifications and help navigate the legal complexities involved.


Falling behind on child support payments can have serious legal and financial consequences. It is crucial for parents facing challenges to address the situation proactively, communicate with the other parent, and explore legal avenues for modification when necessary. Seeking professional advice and taking corrective action early can help mitigate the negative repercussions and ensure that the best interests of the children involved are prioritized.