Divorce FAQ – Failure to Pay Child Support

22 July 2011 Categories: All Blogs, Family Law and Divorce

Tennessee law provides a specific remedy for failure to pay child support. If a Court has ordered a child support amount and it is not paid, the other party can file a Petition for Contempt. This contempt can be either criminal or civil contempt. If you seek criminal contempt, the maximum sentence the Court can order is 10 days per violation (which is counted as each time the support was not paid in full) up to a maximum of 6 months.

T.C.A 36-5-104. Failure to comply with child support order — Criminal sanctions — Inference of obligor’s ability to pay.

(a) Any person, ordered to provide support and maintenance for a minor child or children, who fails to comply with the order or decree, may, in the discretion of the court, be punished by imprisonment in the county workhouse or county jail for a period not to exceed six (6) months.

(b) No arrest warrant shall issue for the violation of any court order of support if such violation occurred during a period of time in which the obligor was incarcerated in any penal institution and was otherwise unable to comply with the order.

(c) In addition to the sanction provided in subsection (a), the court shall have the discretion to require an individual who fails to comply with the order or decree of support and maintenance to remove litter from the state highway system, public playgrounds, public parks, or other appropriate locations for any prescribed period or to work in a recycling center or other appropriate location for any prescribed period of time in lieu of or in addition to any of the penalties otherwise provided; provided, however, that any person sentenced to remove litter from the state highway system, public playgrounds, public parks, or other appropriate locations or to work in a recycling center shall be allowed to do so at a time other than such person’s regular hours of employment.

(d) In any proceeding to enforce child support, the court may apply an inference that the obligor had the ability to pay the ordered child support as set forth in § 36-5-101(a)(8).

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