Can You Go to Jail in North Carolina for Not Paying Child Support?

Can You Go to Jail in North Carolina for Not Paying Child Support Durham

Navigating the complexities of family law can be daunting, especially regarding child support obligations. For parents in North Carolina, fulfilling child support responsibilities is not just a moral duty but also a legal one. Failure to meet these obligations can lead to severe consequences, including potential incarceration. In this blog post, we will explore the legal framework surrounding child support enforcement in North Carolina and answer the question: Can you go to jail in North Carolina for not paying child support?

Understanding Child Support Laws in North Carolina

Child support laws in North Carolina are outlined in Chapter 50 of the North Carolina General Statutes. These laws provide the framework for determining child support obligations, considering factors such as the income of both parents and the specific needs of the child involved.

When a court issues a child support order, it becomes a legally binding agreement. Both parents are obligated to comply with the terms set forth in the order. Typically, the non-custodial parent, who doesn’t have primary physical custody of the child, is responsible for making child support payments to the custodial parent. This financial support is crucial for ensuring the well-being and upbringing of the child.

Consequences of Non-Payment

The consequences of failing to make child support payments in North Carolina can have significant legal and financial ramifications. When a parent fails to meet their child support obligations, they may face several consequences, including:

1. Enforcement Actions – The North Carolina Child Support Enforcement (CSE) department has a variety of enforcement procedures in place to guarantee that child support obligations are followed. These proceedings may include wage garnishment, tax refund interception, property liens, and driver’s license suspension.

2. Contempt of Court – Non-payment of child support can result in a finding of contempt of court. This means that the parent has willfully disobeyed a court order. As a result, the court may impose fines, issue warrants for arrest, or even order imprisonment.

3. Financial Penalties – Delinquent parents may be subject to financial penalties, including fines and interest on overdue child support payments. These penalties can accumulate over time, making it even more challenging for the parent to keep up with their payments.

4. Legal Action – The custodial parent or the CSE agency may take legal action to enforce child support obligations. This could involve filing a motion with the court to compel the non-paying parent to fulfill their financial responsibilities.

5. Impact on Credit – Failure to pay child support might harm the nonpaying parent’s credit score. Unpaid child support may be reported to credit bureaus, lowering the parent’s creditworthiness and making it more difficult to acquire loans or credit cards later.

6. Loss of Benefits – Non-payment of child support can also result in the loss of certain government benefits, such as unemployment benefits or professional licenses.

The consequences of non-payment of child support in North Carolina can be severe and can have long-lasting effects on both the delinquent parent and the child’s well-being. To avoid facing these consequences, parents must understand their obligations and take proactive steps to fulfill them.

Contempt of Court

In North Carolina, if a parent doesn’t pay the amount of child support ordered by the court, they could be found in contempt of court. Contempt of court means going against or disrespecting the court’s authority. This could be by not following a court order, like not paying child support.

When a parent is found in contempt of court for not paying child support, the court can do a few things. They might make the parent pay fines, take money directly from their paycheck (wage garnishment), suspend their driver’s license, or sometimes even send them to jail.

But it’s important to know that jail time for not paying child support usually happens in severe cases where the parent is intentionally disobeying the court. The judge looks at the situation carefully, including how much money the parent can afford to pay.

If you’re in this situation, talking to a lawyer is a good idea. They can help you understand your options, like changing the child support agreement or getting help from services that assist with expenses like health and child custody matters.

Can You Go to Jail in North Carolina for Not Paying Child Support

Alternatives to Incarceration

There are alternatives to sending someone to jail for not paying child support in North Carolina. The state’s Child Support Enforcement (CSE) agency has other ways to ensure parents meet their obligations. Here’s a closer look at some of these alternatives:

1. Income Withholding – This means taking child support payments directly from the parent’s paycheck. It ensures that the support gets paid regularly and on time.

2. Intercepting Tax Refunds – If a parent is owed a tax refund, the CSE agency can intercept that money and use it to pay off overdue child support.

3. Placing Liens on Property – The CSE agency can place a lien on the parent’s property, such as a house or a car. This means the parent can only sell or transfer ownership of the property once they pay the overdue child support.

4. Payment Plans – The agency can work with parents to set up a child support payment plan that fits their financial situation. This can make it easier for parents to catch up on missed payments without facing harsh penalties.

5. Modification of Child Support Orders – If a parent’s financial situation changes, they can ask the court to modify their child support order. This could lower the support they have to pay if they’re experiencing financial hardship.

6. Employment Assistance – The CSE agency can provide resources and referrals to help delinquent parents find employment. By helping them secure a job, it increases the likelihood of them being able to meet their child support obligations.

These alternatives aim to ensure that children receive the financial support they need without resorting to incarceration. By offering support and assistance to delinquent parents, the CSE agency strives to find solutions that benefit both the children and the parents involved.


In summary, neglecting child support payments in North Carolina can lead to significant legal issues, such as potential imprisonment. Nevertheless, jail time is usually a final measure and is reserved for situations where court orders are consistently and intentionally disregarded.

Parents facing challenges meeting their child support obligation should engage with the CSE agency and the court to seek alternative solutions and support. By fulfilling their responsibility to pay child support, parents can prevent accumulating arrears and uphold their financial commitment to their children. This proactive approach helps maintain the integrity of the child support system and ensures the well-being of the children involved.

Consult With Our Child Support Attorney Today!

At Constantinou & Burkert, we understand the gravity of legal matters surrounding child support in Durham, North Carolina. Our dedicated child support attorneys are here to provide assistance and guidance to individuals if they can go to jail in North Carolina for not paying child support. We recognize the complexities of the legal system and the potential consequences involved.

Our child support attorney in Durham, NC, is committed to advocating for our clients’ rights and working diligently to explore all available options to address their situation. Whether you are navigating a contentious child support dispute or seeking modification of existing arrangements, our experienced attorneys are here to offer comprehensive legal support tailored to your needs. With our knowledge and expertise, we strive to alleviate the stress and uncertainty associated with such matters, empowering our clients to make informed decisions and safeguard their interests. Call us today to schedule an appointment!

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(919) 683-1302

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Angela Smith

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