How can a man refuse to pay for child support in the United States?

Legally, you cannot refuse to pay child support after receiving an order from a court. A man (or a woman, for that matter) is legally obligated to financially support their children. States set most child support laws, and if the custodial parent files a support order against the non-custodial parent, the state will enforce the order.

Sad little girl looks off camera while parents fight in background

If the parent defies the order, the state may garnish their wages, seize their assets, or take other actions as part of that enforcement. Eventually, the non-custodial parent may face jail time. Enforcement can be carried out across state lines, so even if the non-custodial parent leaves the state, they’ll eventually face repercussions for dodging their responsibilities.

If you’re unable to pay child support because your income has changed, your child’s financial needs have changed, or for another legitimate reason, you should contact an attorney to discuss your options. You may be able to file a child support modification request, which asks the court to revisit the terms of your original order. The process for filing this request varies greatly from state to state.

An important note: Filing a request does not automatically guarantee a lower payment. The court will consider a variety of factors in evaluating your request, including:

  • The disparity of income between the two partners
  • The parents' income
  • The payer’s cost of living
  • The child’s needs, including costs of education and healthcare
  • The child’s standard of living
  • Temporary hardships (such as hospitalization or loss of income) on the part of the payer

In some states, the court will also consider reasonable living expenses, but many courts simply look at the net income of each parent (net income is your gross income after taxes, Social Security, and other mandatory deductions). To the court, the needs of the child come before the needs of a parent, so a judge probably won’t consider credit card bills, car loans, and other non-essential expenses.

You may be able to lower your payments by discussing the issue with the other parent, or by using mediators to revisit the child support order. If the other parent agrees to a modification of the child support order, you’ll have a much easier time getting the change approved. Even if you come to an agreement with the other parent, you will have to submit the proposed modification to the court in order for it to become legal.

If you’re thinking about filing for child support modification, make sure to pay all of your current child support payments on time to the best of your ability. Discuss the matter with an attorney before taking any legal action whatsoever.

Sadly, many parents don’t support their children financially, despite their legal obligation to do so. In 2015, $33.7 billion in child support was owed, but only about 60 percent of that money was actually received by custodial parents. Only 21.7 percent of all custodial parents requested government assistance in collecting child support.