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Child Support: Pay Up or Don’t Procreate
February 13th, 2013

Do you owe child support arrears? If so, consider yourself lucky if you don’t live in Wisconsin. A Wisconsin court recently issued an injunction prohibiting a father of nine from having any more children until he demonstrates that he can support the children he has already fathered. Can a judge “really” prohibit someone from having more children? What will happen to the father of nine if he fails to obey the injunction and has more children?

The U.S. Constitution protects our right to procreate. Although not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, courts have consistently recognized “right of personal privacy, or a guarantee of certain areas or zones of privacy” under the Fourteenth Amendment, which includes one’s right to procreation. Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 152, 93 S.Ct. 705, 726, 35 L.Ed.2d 147 (1973); Skinner v. Oklahoma ex rel. Williamson, 316 U.S. 535, 541-542, 62 S.Ct. 1110, 1113-1114, 86 L.Ed. 1655 (1942). So can a court “really” order an individual not to procreate? Probably not, but when a parent owes $100,000 in unpaid child support what is a court to do?

What will happen to a parent in Pennsylvania if he or she fails to pay their child support obligation? The non-payment of child support could result in several undesirable outcomes such as a judgment against any real estate the parent owns in Pennsylvania or any other state. This means that if you owe child support at the time you sell any real estate, the support arrears will be paid by the title company from the real estate settlement proceeds. 23 Pa.C.S.A. §4352. Further, without a hearing, the court or the domestic relations office has the authority to take the following actions against a parent who fails to pay his or her child support obligation:

  • License suspension, denial of obtaining a license or license renewal. License includes a driver’s license and professional licenses. 23 Pa.C.S.A. §4355;
  • Overdue support obligation will be reported to the consumer reporting agencies.  23 Pa.C.S.A. §4303; and
  • Assets held in a financial institution may be seized in order to ensure the payment of an outstanding child support obligation. Pa.R.C.P. 1910.23.

In addition, a parent who willfully fails to pay his or her child support obligation may be found in contempt of the child support order. If found in contempt, a parent could be placed on probation for a period not to exceed one year or ordered to pay a fine not to exceed $1,000. The most severe form of punishment for the non-payment of child support is incarceration for a period of up to six months. 23 Pa.C.S.A. §4345.

If you owe child support and are currently in arrears, it is imperative you consult with a matrimonial attorney to ensure you understand the law as it relates to unpaid child support.

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