One of the worst things about getting divorced is the fear of potentially losing custody of your children. If you weren't expecting the divorce, you may suddenly find yourself living somewhere else and relegated to weekend visits. Worse still, it's possible that your former spouse may try to withhold visitation or parenting time as a means of punishing you for perceived wrongs during the marriage. When this happens, it can be tempting to just refuse to pay child support until you receive visitation. Even in situations where you are allowed to see and spend time with your children, you may feel like you don't want to pay.
This is a common feeling, but acting on it would be a mistake. Strong emotions are one of the reasons why it's so important to work with an experienced Illinois family law and divorce attorney. Legal advice can help you understand the risks involved with non-payment of child support. Not only could you face penalties and punishment from the courts, you could also be hurting your chances of receiving shared or full custody of your children when the courts finalize your divorce. It's not a risk you should take.
Child support is a serious obligation
Under Illinois state law, both parents are legally responsible for the care and upkeep of their children. In January of 2016, the state adjusted divorce laws, changing the wording about "custody" to "decision making," "visitation" to "parenting time" and "child support" to "parental allocation." Just because the wording has changed doesn't mean that your legal obligation to provide for the welfare of your children has changed. Your child support obligations are not determined by the amount of visitation you have, but the sharing of custody and the income of both parents.
The courts issue a court order for child support. If you fail to pay your child support, you could be in contempt of court, which can cause all kinds of legal issues for you during and after divorce. The courts may view your refusal to pay as an indication that you are unwilling or unable to pay your child support. Even worse, they may take enforcement actions against you. These can include garnishing your wages, seizing your tax return or any lottery winnings and even issuing a warrant for your arrest. Failing to pay child support in full and on time can cause a host of legal issues.
Your attorney can help you during a contentious divorce
Working with an attorney can help you make better decisions during a difficult divorce. Your lawyer can advocate for you if there are issues with visitation or child support. You can also receive advice about how to interact with your former spouse and during court.