I have a child custody and or child support order and the other parent is not paying; what can I do? What is contempt?

There are several ways to ensure payment of child support once there is an order in place. The two main ways are wage withholding and contempt.

Wage Withholding

This can be done initially as soon as the child support order is entered. The parties can choose not to do income withholding if they make a written agreement that shows support will be paid in another way and that income withholding is not necessary or is unreasonable. Wage withholding can be applied at a later date if a motion is made by either party under one of the following circumstances: the paying party is one month in arrears, the 4 paying party requests the withholding, or if payments have been made in an unreliable or irresponsible way. The most that can be withheld is forty percent of the disposable income.


There are two types of contempt, civil and criminal.

Civil contempt is not meant to be a punishment. but instead designed to make a person do what the court has ordered. Civil contempt can be initiated by an order to show cause issued through the court or by a motion and notice filed by the party who is owed support. To find civil contempt, the delinquent payor must be found by the court to have willfully failed to comply with a support order and have the current ability or means to comply.  The court will decide this on a greater weight of evidence standard.

If the judge finds these two factors, the payor must “purge” himself by one of several methods. Some examples include jail time, attorneys fees, or  an award of interest on the past-due amount from the date the motion or complaint was filed.

Criminal contempt can be direct, meaning willful actions that disrupt court proceedings  happening in court; or indirect, meaning out of court action. In a direct contempt action, the alleged contemptor will be given notice of charges and opportunity to be heard.  When there is no such summary hearing, the alleged contemptor must be given a show cause order.

The show cause order is like a criminal indictment and the alleged contemptor may try and have the order dismissed. Criminal contempt is an offense against the state and remedies include a fine up to $500, imprisonment up to 30 days, censorship, or any combination of the three.

There are several less often used methods of getting past due child support including security, transfer of property, leins, garnishment, arrest and bail, forfeiture of licensing privileges, and in extreme cases, uses of the Federal Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act.

In conclusion, to ensure that you get the support money you are due, court action must be taken.