In New York State, parents have an obligation to support their children. Once a child support Order has been made, the obligation becomes something less than an altruistic ideal, and more of a monthly bill. Sometimes people fall behind in child support payments. This is termed by our legal system as falling into “arrears.” Arrearages are a bad thing, from everyone’s perspective. From the child’s point of view, they may not have enough to eat. From the custodial parent’s point of view, they may not have enough to pay the heating bill. But from the paying parent’s point of view, he or she could be facing jail time.
In New York State, once arrearages accrue (meaning they add up), the parent who is to receive child support may file a petition in Family Court. If the paying parent is found to have WILLFULLY failed to pay the support as it was ordered, that parent can be subject to jail time.
A surprising percentage of people jailed are able to miraculously make money appear, seemingly from thin air, where they previously maintained none was to be had. On the other hand, some sit in jail. The moral of the story is if you cannot pay your child support, don’t just stop paying and let the arrearages grow. For the love of Pete… DO NOT make a side deal with the recipient parent that you don’t have to pay for some period of time as these arrangements are almost never honored by the Courts (even when they are in writing, on a cocktail napkin!) and arrearages will continue growing. Speak to an attorney, consider filing a petition to modify your support obligation. Do something. Because once the arearages accrue, they generally don’t go away.