Not Paying Child Support Can Be a Crime

Willful failure to pay child support can result in a misdemeanor or even a felony conviction.
In several recent stories - from Kentucky, Massachusetts, Texas, and Wisconsin - men who owed back child support and refused to pay were arrested and criminally charged. This is not the same as being held in contempt of court for non-payment. Contempt is remedy to get a parent to pay. The arrests mentioned in these articles were for violations of the criminal law.

Can failure to pay child support be a crime? It certainly can. Although I do not know the criminal non-support statutes in these other states, in Texas criminal nonsupport is a state jail felony, which means that upon conviction a person can be incarcerated for up to two years and fined as much as $10,000.

There's a federal criminal nonsupport statute, too - the Child Support Recovery Act. To be prosecuted under the federal statute, an obligor must be at least one year behind in payments or $5,000 in arrears, and the child must live in another state. A first violation of the federal statute is punishable by six months imprisonment and/or a fine. Subsequent violations are punishable by two years imprisonment and/or a fine.

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