You have custody over your child and your ex-spouse continually fails to pay court-ordered child support. What can you do? Fortunately, under Arizona law, there are multiple remedies available for a court to enforce child support obligations.
Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act
Numerous remedies are codified in the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (URESA). This uniform act provides that a custodial parent is empowered to enforce a child support obligation on the non-paying parent. The URESA also allows the state to enforce the obligation.
One of the available remedies is holding the non-paying parent in contempt of court. In fact, the
URESA statute expressly states:
All duties of support, including the duty to pay arrearages, are enforceable by a proceeding under this article, including a proceeding for civil contempt. The defense that the parties are immune to suit because of their relationship as husband and wife or parent and child is not available to the obligor.
Contempt of Court is a Remedy to Pursue Unpaid Child Support
A contempt action may be filed in an Arizona family court. You need to include a detailed description of the actions your ex-spouse has taken that violated the court’s child support order. The court then issues a notice to appear to your ex-spouse. The purpose of a contempt motion is to enforce compliance with an existing court order or compensate you for the harms and losses sustained as result of the other party’s noncompliance with the order. A party found in contempt for failing to pay child support can also be put in jail.
What If Your Child is Now a Legal Adult?
Arizona courts have held that a parent who has failed to pay child support can be held in contempt, even if that child has reached the age of “majority” (i.e. 18 years of age) at the time of filing. This was not always the controlling opinion in Arizona family courts. In fact, some courts decided that contempt may not be used when a child is no longer a legal dependent which negates the purpose and justification for holding a non-paying parent in contempt. Other courts held differently by reasoning that failure to pay court-ordered child support remains an act of willful disobedience by a party, even after the child becomes a legal adult. The affront to the court remains the same. The Arizona Supreme Court agreed in the seminal 1984 case, Tande v. Bongiovanni, 688 P.2d 1012 (1984).
The state Supreme Court reasoned that removal of contempt would only encourage attempts to stall child support payments until the child reaches the age of 18. Such a policy could not be tolerated. Therefore, the Supreme Court held that a trial court can hold a non-paying parent in contempt, even if the child is now 18 years of age or older at the time of filing.
Phoenix Family Law Attorney
As you can see, the issues and challenges associated with a divorce do no end when the marriage is dissolved. This is why you need to retain an experienced Tempe divorce lawyer who will they be there for you, both during the divorce and to ensure child support is paid. The Law Office of Ronald L. Kossack is here to help. To speak with a Phoenix divorce lawyer about your child support matter, contact us online or by calling 480-345-2652.