Child support orders are often easier to establish than enforce. Regular payments may be intended to maintain a child’s health, well-being, and general quality of life, but some non-custodial parents withhold their contributions. While pursuing a “deadbeat” parent might seem like more trouble than it’s worth, Rhode Island’s courts offer the resources needed to ensure that parent pulls their weight.
Your Entitlements as a Custodial Parent
If you, and your child, are entitled to support payments, the State of Rhode Island affords you certain rights. These rights include the following:
- The right to receive timely payments
- The right to petition the court to enforce an order that is not being followed
- The right to receive back payment, plus interest, on any past-due child support payments
Under most circumstances, the Plantation State’s courts will enforce an existing child support order if the non-custodial parent has the means to make payments. If the non-custodial parent customarily neglects to make payments or makes no effort to renegotiate the terms of the child support order, they could face significant legal penalties.
Deadbeat Parents Face Harsh Legal Penalties
Federal and state law expect non-custodial parents to make child support payments in accordance with the conditions detailed by the existing child support order.
The court could take the following measures to hold a delinquent parent responsible for making timely payments:
- The court may order that support payments be withheld from the parent’s paycheck
- The federal Internal Revenue Service could intercept and redirect the non-custodial parent’s tax refund
- The parent’s driver’s license and vehicle registration could be suspended or revoked
- The non-custodial parent’s passport could be revoked, or they may be refused the issuance of a new passport
- The other parent could be held in contempt of court and possibly fined or imprisoned for failing to meet their child support obligations
However, the court will usually give the non-custodial parent the opportunity to explain their circumstances before ordering penalties or sanctions. The person accused of contempt has the right to a hearing, the notice for which must be served by the custodial parent.
Child Support Contempt Hearings in Rhode Island
If the custodial parent is not receiving regular or timely child support payments, they may petition the court to hold the other partner in contempt for failure to pay. Contempt hearings could have any one of several outcomes:
- The person accused of contempt may not appear for the hearing, prompting the court to issue a judgment against them.
- The parents may be offered the opportunity to reach a settlement, which could include a negotiated payment plan, a promise to remain current, or a reduced lump sum for past-due payments.
- The non-custodial parent could be found in contempt.
Rhode Island courts recognize two forms of contempt in child support enforcement motions:
A non-custodial parent may be found in technical contempt if they have not complied with the child support order, but the court has reason to believe the parent had a legitimate reason to miss payments. This could include the loss of a job, a sudden decrease in income, or serious medical problems.
However, a technical contempt ruling is not a free pass. The court will still, in all likelihood, order the parent to make arrangements to resume making child support payments at the earliest possible opportunity.
The court may find a non-custodial parent in willful contempt if the judge believes the parent had no compelling reason to miss their payments. A finding of willful contempt could result in further penalties, including fines and other financial sanctions.
Under certain circumstances, the court could also order the delinquent parent to jail. The parent may be released after a predetermined period of time or upon making a predetermined payment.
Raising a child should be rewarding. However, a deadbeat parent’s refusal to make regular support payments could jeopardize the child’s health, well-being, and long-term opportunities.
Do You Need To Speak To A Rhode Island Child Support Attorney?
If you are having a difficult time trying to get child support payments you are due you need to speak with an experienced Rhode Island family law attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Warwick office directly at 401.946.3200 to schedule your free consultation. We help divorce clients in Providence, Warwick and all areas of Rhode Island.