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Legal Information: North Carolina

Child Support

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Laws current as of December 22, 2023

If the paying parent fails to pay support, what can be done to enforce the child support order?

Below are several things that a court can do to enforce a child support order but other ways may be available as well.  To figure out what may likely happen in your case, you may want to talk to a lawyer.  The judge can do one or more of the following:

  1. order the paying parent to post a bond, which is when s/he leaves a sum of money with the clerk of superior court, that could be given to the parent receiving child support if the support isn’t paid;
  2. order the paying parent to have his/her employer deduct the money from his/her wages, income or salary and have it sent directly to the parent receiving child support, which is known as an “assignment of wages” or “income withholding;”
  3. order the paying parent to give to the parent receiving support certain personal property or land/real estate;
  4. have the paying parent arrested and be required to post bail in an amount set by the judge;
  5. “attach” the paying parent’s assets, which basically means that the parent receiving support becomes a creditor and gets a lien against the paying parent’s assets. The parent can enforce the lien just as any creditor could. (A lien is a legal claim upon the property of another person to secure the payment of a debt). Note: The child can also become a creditor against the paying parent if the parent fraudulently gives away property or assets in order to hide them from being used to pay off his/her child support arrears;
  6. issue an injunction to order the paying parent to do something or to not do something – for example, the paying parent may be ordered not to sell certain property or remove money from bank accounts, etc.;
  7. appoint a “receiver,” which is a person the judge chooses to control the paying parent’s money and property and see that the support is paid;
  8. hold the paying parent in civil contempt for failing to make payments if you file a petition for contempt and the judge can sentence the parent to the punishments available for criminal contempt,1 which is a fine of up to $500, imprisonment up to 30 days, or up to 120 days if the sentence is suspended as long as the parent pays, or both;2 and
  9. suspend the paying parent’s license(s) after s/he becomes one month behind in support.3

You can talk to a lawyer or your local child support enforcement agency about all the ways you can collect past due child support.  For legal referrals, go to our NC Finding a Lawyer page.

1 NCGS § 50-13.4(f)
2 NCGS § 5A-12(a)(3)
3 NCGS § 50-13.12(b)