Late or missing child support payments can put a real financial strain on custodial parents who are trying to support their children. Although it's frustrating to deal with a non-paying parent, South Carolina provides custodial parents many avenues for enforcing child support orders and collecting overdue payments. This article discusses how to enforce child support orders in South Carolina. If after reading this article you have questions, contact a local family law attorney for assistance.
Following a separation or divorce, parents who spend less time with their children (non-custodial parents), will likely be required to pay child support. Child support is not automatic - you must get a court order or establish support through South Carolina's Division of Child Support Services (DCSS).
You can try to reach an agreement on child support with your child's other parent. If so, you will need to have your agreement approved by a judge and turned into an official child support order if you want to enforce it or hold an non-paying parent in contempt (see below) at a later date.
If you and your child's other parent can't agree, you may have to hire an attorney to file a support action with the court. If you can't afford an attorney, you may apply for support through South Carolina's DCSS by filling out theApplication for Child Support. In addition to establishing child support, South Carolina's DCSS can also assist parents in establishing paternity, locating a parent and collecting child support payments.
An official child support order will list the amount of child support to be paid each month. The non-custodial parent must pay that amount as long as the child support order is in effect or until the child turns 18 and graduates high school (unless other requirements are included in the order). To find out more about how child support is calculated, see Child Support in South Carolina.
Non-custodial parents that disregard their court-ordered obligation to pay child support by paying late, paying less than the full amount or not paying at all are violating court orders. There are serious consequences for a South Carolina parent who disobeys a court's child support order, including fines and jail time. As a custodial parent, rest assured that there are remedies to enforce your support order and to collect the child support owed.
If you are a custodial parent who is not receiving child support, you may hire an attorney to file a child support enforcement action in court. If you can't afford an attorney, you may file the paperwork yourself.
If you decide to bring an enforcement action (also called a Rule to Show Cause) on your own, you will be required to file the correct legal paperwork and represent yourself at the court hearing. Forms are generally available in hard copy format at your local courthouse or electronically through the court's website. See South Carolina Rule to Show Causefor information on what to file and how to prepare for your court hearing.
A custodial parent who is not receiving court-ordered child support can seek help from DCSS to enforce the order. Families receiving state assistance may qualify for a fee waiver, although typically DCSS charges a minimal fee to open a child support case. DCSS has numerous ways of enforcing child support orders and collecting overdue support payments that are discussed below.
South Carolina's DCSS and family court judges have several ways to collect overdue and future child support payments and impose consequences for a parent's non-payment of support as follows:
In addition to the above penalties, DCSS may file a child support enforcement action with the court on your child's behalf.
If, during an enforcement hearing (whether brought by a parent, private attorney or DCSS), a judge decides that the noncustodial parent violated the existing child support order, that parent can be found in "contempt of court." If found in contempt, the delinquent parent may face fines of up to $1,500 or be ordered to spend up to 1 year in jail - or in extreme circumstances, both. Delinquent parents can sometimes avoid contempt charges by immediately paying all past due child support.
If you have additional questions about how to enforce a child support order in South Carolina, contact an experienced family law attorney for help.
To find out more about enforcing child support orders, read the relevant child support statute contained in the Code of Laws of South Carolina, Title 63, Chapter 17.