Child support is an important monthly bill. If you forget to pay it, you could face serious consequences. Even with the best intentions, a payment can easily fall through the cracks. As with other bills, you may be able to set your child support up to automatically come out of your checking account each month for convenience. However, there may be another very important instance where your child support can be taken out of your account, and that happens if you deliberately fail to pay.
Child support can be taken from your checking account if you choose to make your payments through automatic withdrawal instead of paying manually. However, money can also be taken from your account involuntarily if you get behind on your child support payments and are subject to a bank levy.
Debit Through Automatic Withdrawal
Debit Through Bank Levy
A less-desirable situation happens if you fail to pay your child support at all. The funds can be taken from your account, but this isn’t an easy process. You’ll likely receive notice that you’re behind, and if you ignore that, your state child support enforcement office will seek a court order to freeze your bank account for the amount due. The laws on how this is done vary from one state to the next, but you should receive a notice in the mail of the court order, as well as communication from your bank that the order has been placed.
Once it receives the request, your bank will freeze the amount due in your account for a short period of time. This is designed to give you a chance to protest the levy if there’s been an error. You’ll have the use of other funds in that account during that time, assuming you owe less than your balance. After that time period has passed, the amount will be sent to the appropriate government department, and the freeze will be lifted.
Avoiding a Bank Levy
Of course, the best way to avoid a bank levy is to stay current on your child support. That isn’t always possible, especially if you unexpectedly lose your job. However, failing to pay your child support can lead to criminal penalties, including jail time, so it’s worth trying to work it out if you can.
If your circumstances don’t allow you to pay, contact your caseworker as soon as possible and be honest about your situation. You might find that paying what you can will be enough to stave off court action. If it does make its way to court, show up and bring documentation of your situation. You might qualify for a hardship exemption that helps you get through your crisis. If you can show that you’re working and bringing in some money, even if you can’t get a job at your full regular salary at the moment, you’ll be more likely to get the court’s sympathy.
- ACI Worldwide: Americans Pay More than Half of Their Bills Online
- Office of Child Support Enforcement: Payments
- Liebenhaut Law: How Can I Stop Child Support Garnishment?
- California's Child Support Program: Bank Levies on Child Support Arrears
- Nolo: Jail Time for Unpaid Child Support
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: Fatherhood
Stephanie Faris has written about finance for entrepreneurs and marketing firms since 2013. She spent nearly a year as a ghostwriter for a credit card processing service and has ghostwritten about finance for numerous marketing firms and entrepreneurs. Her work has appeared on The Motley Fool, MoneyGeek, Ecommerce Insiders, GoBankingRates, and ThriveBy30.