What Are the Consequences of Unpaid Child Support in Tennessee?

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Every state takes the payment of child support seriously, including Tennessee. When a child support order is entered, and if you are the payor, then you must pay every month. If you don’t, you may face some hefty penalties. But what are those penalties, and is losing your visitation time one of them? Keep reading to learn more about the consequences of unpaid child support. If you have concerns about your own child support order, don’t delay and talk to a Memphis child support lawyer soon.

What Is Unpaid Child Support?

In child support, the paying parent is known as the payor. The receiving parent is the payee. When the payor fails to send child support as ordered, the unpaid child support is also called “arrearages.” The payee parent has the right to go to court and request a judgment for the arrearages the payor owes and more.

The judgment requested may include:

  • The amount of unpaid child support itself,
  • Interest on the unpaid child support,
  • And court costs incurred by the payee in going to court.

As a result of the additional charges, unpaid child support can quickly multiply what you owe. For instance, if you originally owed $5,000, then 12% interest on that would bring the total to $5,600. Then hundreds of dollars may also be added for the court costs.

What Are the Consequences of Not Paying Child Support?

Typically, the court will issue an Income Withholding Order to deduct what the payor owes from their paycheck. If for any reason this isn’t possible, then the payor parent can send the ordered amount through Moneygram or an online processor. Tennessee law allows the payee to garnish up to half of your paycheck.

But beyond having to pay what you owe plus interest and court costs, you may face several difficult consequences when the payee parent is successful in requesting a judgment from the court. For example, you may have several licenses suspended: your driver’s license, your hunting or fishing license, any professional or occupational licenses you have, and your business license. You will be given a grace period of 20 days to pay your arrearages before these suspensions go into effect and the ability to argue before the court if you had good reason not to pay your child support, though that argument has a history of being difficult to win.

How Is a Child Support Order Modified?

All of this being said, courts are cognizant that people’s life circumstances change, and with changes, what was a reasonable amount of child support may become unrealistic. When a payor parent becomes unemployed or disabled, suddenly paying child support can understandably become less feasible.

It’s important, however, to note that just as you can’t unilaterally modify a child support order by stopping payments, neither can your ex unilaterally modify the order. Your ex must ask the court to approve a modification or request payment of arrearages; they cannot simply take away your visitation rights until you pay the overdue child support.