Is Failure to Pay Child Support a Felony in Virginia?

Failure to pay child support can be a misdemeanor or felony charge, depending on the circumstances. If the court ordered a parent to pay child support, that person has a legal obligation to pay according to the required amount and schedule.

Missing a scheduled payment, underpaying child support, or attempting to avoid paying by intentionally quitting a job can lead to civil or criminal penalties. Judges might initially avoid issuing a jail sentence to give the parent a chance to pay what they owe. However, if that person doesn’t pay back child support due or misses another payment in the future, they could face imprisonment.

Consequences for Violating a Child Support Order in Virginia

The Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) oversees the payment of child support and ensures parents obey orders issued by the courts. When someone doesn’t pay, DCSE has the authority to pursue civil or administrative penalties, such as:

  • Fines
  • Intercept tax and state income refunds
  • Interest on child support if unpaid for at least 30 days
  • Suspension of professional licenses, driver’s licenses, and recreational licenses
  • Report non-payment to credit bureaus
  • Direct an employer to withhold wages in the amount owed
  • Block a passport application or renewal
  • Place a lien on personal or real property
  • Apply any collected Social Security disability benefits to balance
  • Seize assets through property execution

Criminal Penalties for Non-Payment of Child Support

DCSE doesn’t have the authority to sentence someone to jail for not paying child support. Typically, the authorities that govern the payment of child support try to avoid severe punishment, such as criminal charges. Civil and administrative penalties are the first methods used to try to force someone to pay what they owe.

However, if initial penalties don’t work, DCSE could petition the court to issue an arrest warrant. The court might issue a jail sentence depending on how late the child support payments are and the amount of the overdue balance.

The court could sentence someone to jail for failing to pay child support if the owed amount is over $5,000 or a year past due. For payments two years past due or exceeding $10,000, the court could charge the offense as a felony and sentence the parent to two years in prison.

Modifying a Child Support Order

A parent required to pay child support who can no longer make payments must petition the court and ask for a modified child support order. Asking for a modification is only allowed if a person’s financial situation changes due to significant circumstances, such as losing a job (unless the parent quit to avoid paying intentionally), suffering a sudden decrease in income, or being demoted at work.

The court might approve a new order after reviewing the petitioning parent’s finances. However, continuing to make the required payments is necessary until the modification occurs. 

Contact Us

Since 2016, the Virginia child support attorneys of Pincus Goodman P.C., have represented clients in various family law matters, including child support disputes. We can protect your rights and fight for your interests whether you need to enforce a child support order or can’t make payments and require a modification.

We have decades of legal experience and the resources to handle the most complex cases. You will receive the personalized attention you need from start to finish of the legal process. You can count on us to aggressively pursue the best possible result and try to reach your desired goals.

If you face a child support issue in Virginia Beach, VA, call Pincus Goodman P.C., at (757) 301-9634 today for a confidential consultation. We can review your case and determine your available legal options.


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