If you fall way behind on most debts, such as car payments, credit card bills or your mortgage, bad things usually follow. Your car could be repossessed, the credit card company could get a judgment against you and garnish your wages or the bank could foreclose on your home. But one thing that won’t happen to you for not paying these debts is going to jail.
If you don’t make child support payments in Georgia, however, jail is very much a possibility.
Contempt of Court
In Georgia, the failure to make court-ordered child support payments can result in a judge finding you in contempt of court. Judges don’t take too kindly to their orders being ignored or violated, and that is exactly what happens when support payments aren’t made as required.
If, after a petition is filed by the other parent and a hearing is held in which the judge finds you in contempt, he or she can sentence you to jail. However, you may be able to avoid time behind bars if you are able to come up with what is sometimes called a “purge fee,” but that can often cost thousands of dollars – which you may not have.
If you don’t have the ability to pay the purge fee or get current on your past due obligations, there is one other possible way to avoid jail time: filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy and the Automatic Stay
A Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing puts a hold, or automatic stay, on efforts to collect most debts. This includes phone calls from debt collectors, lawsuits, foreclosures, garnishments and repossessions. It is designed to provide a debtor with breathing room to come up with a plan to repay these debts over a 3-5-year period. Whether you are faced with a court hearing on why you haven’t paid, have been told you must pay a “purge” amount by a certain day or are already in jail, Chapter 13 bankruptcy can save you and get you the breathing room you need.
Whatever the details of the repayment plan, child support obligations are treated as “priority” debts, meaning that they will be paid. You cannot avoid either the arrearage (past due) or the ongoing, but you will get time to pay the arrearage. Also, filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy will stop the contempt action and give you breathing room. Support payments must be paid as they continue to come due, and the plan must ensure that all past due payments are paid in full by the conclusion of the plan. A debtor who fails to make payments as required by the plan can lose all protections that Chapter 13 provides them.
If you are having a difficult time meeting your child support obligations, the worst thing you can do is nothing. The best thing you can do is call an experienced child support lawyer who can evaluate your situation, advise you of your options and help you find a path forward. We frequently help clients file for both Chapter 13 bankruptcy to handle the past due payments and a modification action to lower their ongoing amount if things have changed and clients can no longer afford their ongoing child support payment. Our attorneys will determine the best option depending on your individual circumstances.
Call the Alpharetta Child Support Attorneys at North Metro Litigators Today
The Alpharetta child support lawyers at North Metro Litigators provide effective and compassionate divorce representation at a reasonable cost. Call us today at (678) 888-0198 or contact us to arrange for your free initial consultation.