What Happens If My Ex-Spouse Won’t Pay Child Support?

You rely on your ex-spouse to help you support your children financially. So when your ex-spouse suddenly stops paying child support, it’s a serious blow for your entire family.

You might assume your ex-spouse is delinquent and simply doesn’t want to pay. But this isn’t the only reason to shirk on payments.

Here are four reasons why your ex-spouse may have stopped paying child support and how you can legally overcome these challenges.

1. Your Ex-Spouse Moved

If your ex-spouse moved to another state, he or she might think he or she is no longer required to pay child support. Fortunately, this belief is incorrect. According to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, the court can force your ex-spouse to pay child support, even if he or she lives in another state.

Determine whether your state’s court still has jurisdiction over your ex-spouse. If it doesn’t, it can forward the child support order to the court in your ex-spouse’s new state.

If you don’t know where your ex-spouse moved, state agencies can help you locate him or her.

2. Your Ex-Spouse Lost His or Her Job

If your ex-spouse is unemployed, he or she doesn’t currently have the resources to pay child support payments. But he or she can’t just quit paying without informing the court. Your ex-spouse may petition the court to either reduce the child support payment amount or put a hold on the payments.

Petitioning right away is in your ex-spouse’s best interest. He or she must continue to pay child support payments until he or she petitions the court. Plus, your ex-spouse is still responsible to pay overdue child support payments.

Unfortunately, this situation leaves your family without a child support payment temporarily. But you may be entitled to certain government benefits.

3. Your Ex-Spouse Confuses Visitation Rights With Child Support Payments

Maybe your ex-spouse thinks that because his or her visitation rights were suspended, he or she no longer needs to pay child support. But visitation rights are completely separate from child support. Even if your ex-spouse cannot see his or her children, he or she is still required to pay child support.

Your ex-spouse can petition the court to restore his or her visitation rights, but must continue to pay child support regardless of the court’s decision on visitation.

4. Your Ex-Spouse Refuses to Pay

Sometimes, an ex-spouse shirks his or her responsibilities and refuses to pay child support. In this case, talk to the court about enforcing the child support order. A prosecuting attorney or a private attorney can impose consequences on your ex-spouse. These consequences may include:

  • Garnishing wages (requiring your ex-spouse’s employer to withhold a portion of his or her earnings)
  • Withholding federal tax returns
  • Seizing your ex-spouse’s property
  • Suspending your ex-spouse’s business or occupational license
  • Canceling your ex-spouse’s driver’s license
  • Incarceration

Whether you use the prosecuting attorney or a private attorney, the court uses the money obtained from garnishing wages, withholding federal tax returns, or seizing property to pay child support costs.

If your ex-spouse still fails to pay, the court can send him or her to jail, but this is a last resort. After all, if your ex-spouse is in jail, he or she isn’t able to earn money for child support payments. However, even if your ex-spouse is in jail, he or she usually qualify for work release during work days.


Your children rely on child support payments for their food, housing, and education. If your ex-spouse isn’t paying what he or she owes, you’ll benefit from the support a family law lawyer can offer. We can look at your specific case and provide legal counsel and solutions. We can also work with the court to enforce your ex-spouse’s child support order.

Call Madison Law Firm, PLLC today for a consultation.

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