Can someone really go to jail in Illinois if they fail to pay child support? It seems like the answer should be “no” – after all, if the court is concerned about child support obligations being paid, why would they lock obligors up in jail where they cannot make any payments? Unfortunately, as some obligors learn the hard way, courts are all too willing to put obligors who fail to pay their child support obligations in jail.
This can cause serious problems for the obligor parent, including losing his or her job. Learn more about why a court might order an obligor parent to jail for failing to make child support payments and how you might be able to avoid jail if you fall behind on your child support payments.
“I Thought Jail Was Only for Criminals!”
A child support obligor who fails to pay his or her obligation can be subject to the contempt powers of the court. “Contempt” can refer to any failure to obey or carry out an order of the court. When a child support obligor fails to pay his or her obligation, it is most often considered indirect civil contempt – “indirect” because the failure to pay occurs outside the presence of the court and “civil” because the court’s powers are not designed to punish but to encourage the party in contempt to comply with the court’s orders.
If a court finds you in indirect civil contempt for failure to pay a child support order, the court will typically either establish a fine you must pay and/or sentence you to jail. Because the goal of the court’s civil contempt powers is to secure your compliance, the court can order you to continue paying a fine and/or remaining in jail until you actually comply with the order (the party in contempt is said to have the “keys to the prison” because any fines or jail sentence ends immediately once the party in contempt complies with the court’s order).
How Do I Avoid Being Arrested for Failing to Pay Child Support?
It is not desirable to be in a situation in which you are threatened with contempt of court. Legal counsel may be able to assist you in contempt proceedings, but there are other strategies that can help prevent the court from ordering you to jail, including:
- Always appearing for court hearings: If you do not show for court hearings, a court will assume you are willfully disobeying the court’s orders and will issue a warrant for your arrest;
- Not overpromising: A court would rather that you be realistic about what you can afford to pay as part of a payment plan than for you to overpromise and be unable to fulfill your obligation; and
- Speaking with your attorney if you run into trouble. If your financial situation takes a turn for the worse and you cannot afford your monthly payment, contact your attorney immediately. He or she may be able to work out a temporary forbearance or partial payment plan that you can afford until your situation improves.
The worst thing you can do if you are having trouble paying your child support obligation is nothing. Contact a skilled DuPage County child support attorney today at 630-871-1002 to obtain the knowledgeable and experienced legal counsel you need to avoid jail.