If a father or mother violates a Providence Family Court decree or order by not paying court ordered child support, then the custodial parent has the option of filing a child support contempt motion seeking a finding of contempt against the non-custodial parent. The payee who has allegedly not met his or her support obligation has the legal right to a hearing on the merits. Providence Family Court rules set forth certain notice requirements. A Rhode Island child support attorney explains child support contempt. Child support is a serious matter and the consequences for not paying child support can be severe.
Rhode Island Child Support Contempt
Does the State of Rhode Island Child Support Enforcement office ever initiate a contempt motion for failure to provide child support? If the person entitled to receive child support in Rhode Island and Providence Plantations is on cash assistance then payment may be owed to the State of Rhode Island. Child Support Enforcement may file a motion seeking a contempt finding. Rhode Island Child support enforcement also could file for contempt if the custodial mother or father is receiving full services from RI Child Support enforcement.
Right to a lawyer?
Does a litigant who is accused of being a deadbeat dad or deadbeat mom have a right to a RI Family Court lawyer representing him or her in the contempt motion in Providence Family Court?
- In the event of a possibility of jail time and the accused deadbeat parent cannot afford a Providence child support attorney then the Family Court Magistrate, Justice or General Magistrate must insure that the person has a RI child support attorney providing legal representation.
- The Magistrate has a list of Court Appointed lawyers who are paid peanuts by the State of RI.
- Otherwise, the Court will appoint one of the lawyers from Rhode Island Legal Services to represent the person.
Can a RI child support contempt motion be settled prior to a hearing?
- Yes. There is often an opportunity to settle the RI child support matter prior to any hearing in which a judge may find a person in willful contempt.
Can a contempt motion be filed in a divorce, miscellaneous petition, post-divorce or other Providence Family Court proceeding?
A Kent or Newport County child support contempt case could be part of a RI matrimonial dissolution / divorce, child custody war, Complaint for Separate Maintenance without filing for divorce, Complaint for divorce from Bed and Board, dcyf petition, child visitation, paternity or other type of Family Court case.
What types of settlements can be reached?
A settlement in a Providence Family Court child support matter typically may include any one of the following or a combination of the following:
- the contemptuous payor promising to stay current in support payments,
- tendering a lump sum of cash,
- a child support payment plan,
- staying current in addition to an arrearage order, etc.
There are some payee parents who will not settle the matter prior to a hearing on the merits. These wronged parents are aggressive and often seeking that the deadbeat spend some time in the can.
Describe the concept of technical contempt in Rhode Island Family Court
Failure to properly follow and abide by a child support order in RI could amount to a finding of technical contempt for failure to pay support as ordered. If the judge agrees that a contempt is not willful then the judge may stop short of making a finding of willful contempt. The Justice may let a guy off the hook with what amounts to a slap on the face, a finding of technical contempt. The Justice may find that a person had a valid explanation for failure to provide his children with Court order support. The justice may go easy on the person and make a finding of technical contempt. The following excuses may form the basis of a technical contempt finding:
- losing employment (being fired, laid off),
- loss of income,
- injury at employment,
- medical issues,
- or a laundry list of other excuses or rationalizations
A person found to be in technical contempt will not be sentenced to the Adult Correctional Institution (aci / jail)!
However, the person may be ordered to:
- find employment,
- raise a lump sum,
- stay current and / or make payments on the arrears,
- pay attorney fees,
- make certain lump sum payments,
- obtain a second job etc.
What factors influence a Providence Family Court judge’s decision as to whether contemptuous nonpayment of child support in the Ocean State is willful or just technical?
Many Magistrates, General Magistrates and Justices have little patience for people who do not support their children. Nonetheless, the modern trend for justices is to steer clear of incarceration unless absolutely necessary and justified. If the parent under a support obligation has a justifiable explanation for his nonpayment it needs to be a good one or there could be a possibility of incarceration at the ACI. The amount of child support arrears owed by the noncustodial parent and the history for compliance with prior orders of the Family Court may play a large role in the decision of the Washington County Family Court Judge! If a parent has a history of being a child support scofflaw, being a ne’er–do–well or history of failure to appear for hearings then this will not bode well for the obligor parent. A history of bench warrants for failure to appear certainly does not help. If these types of factors exist then there is a greater likelihood the judge will order time in the slammer. Of course, a prior history of technical or willful contempt will play a role in the decision.
Does the amount of child support arrears owed make any difference in Kent county family Court?
The more a person owes the more likelihood that the person will be held in willful contempt.
What factors will a Rhode Island family Court judge look at?
At a testimonial hearing on the merits, the Providence Family court Justice will examine pertinent and relevant documents that has been offered into evidence. The Justice on the domestic or reciprocal calendar will inquire whether the parent can raise a lump sum immediately or in the near future and whether they can obtain a loan from a friend, boyfriend, girlfriend or other family member. The domestic court justice could look into in whether a child support obligor has assets that could be sold to pay such support obligation.
Do child support orders terminate upon a child turning 8 or when circumstances change?
NO!!! If a non-custodial parent’s circumstances are altered then he or she must file a motion to modify child support when circumstances change. The child support payor cannot automatically stop paying child support when he loses his job, has another dependent child, becomes disabled or suffers a loss in income!
Child support in Rhode Island does not automatically modify when the persons circumstances change. If a modification of child support is granted by the Newport Family Court judge then any modification will be retroactive to the date of service of the new motion NOT THE DATE CIRCUMSTANCES CHANGED! This means that a person cannot take the law into their own hands and unilaterally change their own support obligation when their circumstances change. The child support order will run retroactive after the Providence Family Court issues a decree modifying the RI support. Therefore, if a person loses their job (is laid off or fired), has an additional dependent child, qualifies for ssi or ssdi (social security disability insurance) becomes disabled, has their hours are reduced / decreased or their pay decreases they must immediately file a motion to modify.
What is “willful contempt ” under Rhode Island Child Support Law?
If the judge makes a finding that a child support obligor is in willful contempt of the court’s orders, it means the justice believes that a person is thumbing their nose at the Court. This could be because the person’s excuse, explanation, rationalization or justification has no merit and is merely a bad faith attempt to evade the support obligation. The Magistrate may not believe the excuse for missing support payments is grounded in fact or is a valid excuse for nonpayment.
Willful contempt may also mean the following:
- failure to make ordered support payments despite the ability to do so
- A person has no job or employment but has not made reasonable attempts to secure such employment
- the person is able to work yet either isn’t working, is underemployed or not making proper efforts to find employment.
- The judge may believe that the contempt is willful because the person is lying, exaggerating his excuse or that the person is not acting in good faith.
What happens if the judge finds someone in willful contempt of a child support obligation in Rhode Island?
If a parent or citizen under a support obligation is determined to be in willful contempt by a Justice of The Rhode Island Family Court for not paying RI child support, the nonpaying parent could be sentenced to the aci (jail) from day to day. Contempt proceedings in Rhode Island and Providence Plantations are not criminal causes of action! These proceedings can be quasi criminal in nature since incarceration is a possibility. Contempt proceedings are not technically criminal causes of cation because they are intended to compel compliance with Rhode Island child support orders rather than punish for not tendering required support payments!
If an obligor parent is sentenced to the ACI for non-payment of child support, how does the person get out of jail?
The Providence Family Court Justice will usually state that upon payment of a lump sum the person will get out of jail. In child support motions there is always a way to get out of jail by making payment. A person could be held in willful contempt and not be sentenced to the aci.
Does the state pay child support if the father is in jail?
No. The State of Rhode Island does not pay your child support if the father or mother is in jail.
Legal Notice per Rules of Professional Responsibility:
The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers in the general practice of law, but does not license or certify any lawyer as an expert or specialist in any field of practice.