To put it simply, you can not dodge the financial commitment to your kids. No matter how you feel about the second parent, you must be a mature adult and pay your child support. If you’ve received a notice that a bench warrant has been issued against you – there are a few points that you must know and do:
- A Bench Warrant is a warrant issued by a local judge, and it can be done for many reasons. Every state in the country has laws directing when they will use the warrant option; it can happen if you are held in contempt of court for not appearing at a hearing, and it can also happen when you have missed your child support payments.
- This is an active warrant that can and will be duly executed. A judge will sign a bench warrant for something as minor as an unpaid parking ticket in some states. Most people feel “safe” with those types of warrants because they aren’t aggressively hounded. Do not get complacent when a child support warrant has been issued. Your county Sheriffs department handles failure to pay support warrants; they will act on it.
- These aren’t sent to you “just because” or after one week of missed payments. In almost every state, a judge issued warrants are the last resort option – so if you have one approved against you – it’s because you have installed a pattern of non-payment. Do not expect an all-embracing deal of leniency. In many states, once a judge’s warrant is issued – your drivers’ license automatically stays as well.
- The Office of Child Support Enforcement and County Sheriffs have the authority to administer the warrant anywhere in the state. They can arrest you at your residence, your place of work, during a usual traffic stop, and anywhere else they see fit. It is challenging to flee from this kind of warrant when you are in the same state. Leaving the state won’t do you much good either. While it can not be executed, it will remain fresh on your record. With your suspended drivers’ license and an active warrant, finding a new job and getting a new license will be tough.
There are two kinds of warrants issued by judged if you fail to complete your Child Support payment:
- A judge announces a civil warrant when a custodial father or mother files a complaint against the noncustodial father or mother for contempt of court (violating the court’s order to pay maintenance). The noncustodial parent must arrive in court, where a judge will order payment, jail time, a fine, or all three: Jail time is the last resort as discussed above, used after numerous attempts to get the parent to follow court orders.
- Criminal warrants are issued when a federal or state prosecutor gets involved in a child support case. On the state level, the local district lawyer’s office manages criminal child support matters. On the federal level, the OIG (Office of the Inspector General) investigates criminal child support cases. If the case meets specific standards under the “Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act,” a joint task force—made up of the Department of Justice, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), the OCSE, and the OIG—prosecute the case. Usually, this happens when a parent owes a lot of outstanding support for a long time—at least $5000 due to a year or more. Parents found liable for criminal non-payment may face fines and imprisonment.
Remember, today, no one is immune to trial for failure to pay child support. From ‘average Joes’ to celebs, parents can be jailed, fined, and ordered to pay support. So what would you do?
Surrender yourself to the county’s sheriff’s department so the matter can be settled. Generally speaking, there is no jail time associated with when you turn yourself in. You will appear before a judge who will confirm how much money needs to be paid towards lifting the warrant or your “bail.” This money is a percentage of what you owe. This money needs to be paid before you can be released.
If you are facing genuine financial hardship and are unable to come up with a lump sum of money, a judge has the power to order a payment plan and stop the warrant.