KRS 403.240(2) provides that the failure of either party, without good cause, to comply with a provision of an order, shall constitute contempt of court, “and the court shall remedy the failure to comply.” So, from time to time, it may be helpful to tactfully remind the judge of his or her duty to remedy the failure to pay child support ordered to be paid.
As a family court judge, I had over 100 cases on my Wednesday afternoon dockets involving people who had failed to comply with my orders to pay child support. Contempt of court is tricky. As jail time is a possibility, the defendant is entitled to counsel at a contempt hearing. He or she must be shown to have the ability to have complied with the order; otherwise, there would be good cause for the failure to comply. When a guy is in jail or prison, child support continues to accrue, but he generally has no ability to make the payments!
If a finding can be made that he failed to pay without good cause, he is subject to sanctions. That could involve jail time, but again, he can’t pay while he is in jail. It could involve probated jail time, and the law requires that he has the opportunity and ability to comply with the terms of probation, so that means he has to have a job or can get a job in order to make payments.
One effective approach to this problem is requiring the defendant to go to specific substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, or job placement programs. This generally takes time, and arrearages continue to accrue while he deals with the problems that caused the contempt.
Far too often, just when we get a guy ready to get a job, he fathers another child, relapses on drugs, and gets arrested on some other charge.
For a thorough overview of the problems related to contempt of court for failure to pay child support, read the Kentucky Court of Appeals case of Ivy v. Barnes, 702 SW3d 838.
The realities are that far too often, child support will never be collected, regardless of contempt of court. You may share my frustration on collection of child support, but at least you know a little bit more about the process.
Have a great day!