How to Enforce Child Support in Utah
Enforcing child support in Utah requires a child support order be established, which is (usually) best done through the Office of Recovery Services, or ORS. In most respects, an ORS order is as useful for getting child support as a court order.
If a party continues to resist paying once an order has been established, you may need to file a Motion to Enforce Order. You’ll then go through a three-step process to prove they’ve been failing to meet the demands of the order despite knowing about the order and having the aptitude to follow the order.
How to establish child support in Utah
To receive child support, it must first be established. This is the legal process by which the court sets and records the child support order that allows you to start receiving payments and requires the paying party to make those payments. Establishing a child support order through the ORS is the easiest and generally cheapest. Their administrative orders are essentially equivalent to judicial orders, but going to court to get a child support order can be costly and more time-consuming.
The actual process of getting an order established will depend on the specifics of your case. Some key elements that need to be reviewed include a child’s parentage, the amounts that will be paid as part of child support, what medical support may be needed, and the relevant financial information of the parents or guardians involved.
Assuming one goes through the ORS and the process is going about as efficiently as it should, it will generally take the ORS several months to create a child support order if the addresses of both parents are known. Then, if both parents agree and sign the paper, an order will be finished in around a week.
However, the process can take much longer, or never finish at all, if a parent is difficult to locate or resistant to the process. In some cases, it may take court involvement to get child support and, rarely, it may not be possible if a parent simply cannot be located.
How can the courts enforce child support once it's been established?
Legally, a court order must be followed. Even if one parent isn’t obeying a court order, this doesn’t allow the other to stop obeying it. For example, withholding parental time (while likely illegal) doesn’t mean the other parent can temporarily stop paying child support. The courts have a few ways to enforce child support after establishing it.
In the mildest circumstances, a parent may receive what is essentially a warning, reiterating their legal duties. If it's clear they don’t intend to obey a given order, they may be charged with contempt of court, which could lead to a fine or jail time. In extreme cases, they may be charged with criminal nonsupport, which can carry more serious penalties.
Court orders aimed at collecting support
If a child support order isn’t being followed, one should file a Motion to Enforce Order. This process used to be called Order to Show Cause. This will begin what is essentially a three-step process that, if done correctly and your case is legitimate, should allow the court to enforce its orders and for you to collect support.
The first step is to file various documents with the court, including these:
- Ex Parte Verified Motion to Enforce Domestic Order and for Sanctions
- Any supporting documents
- Request to Submit for Decision
- Order to Attend Hearing
The second step is to get your papers served. You cannot serve them yourself. Most people use a serving service to make sure they are served properly and in a way that is well documented. If your ex has a lawyer, you can serve the documents via their lawyer.
Finally, you will need to attend the hearing. You may also need to attend a less formal telephone conference prior to the hearing to discuss the issues of your motion. The goal of the hearing is to establish whether a party who is disregarding the court order was aware of the order, could follow it, and deliberately did not comply.
Additional penalties for failing to pay child support in Utah
Failing to pay child support in Utah generally qualifies as criminal nonsupport. If it is one’s first offense, this is usually a class A misdemeanor. In especially extreme cases or if a person has already been convicted of criminal nonsupport in the past, it is instead a third-degree felony.
A Class A misdemeanor in Utah carries a maximum sentence of up to 364 days in jail. It carries a maximum fine of $2,500. A person could potentially receive both a prison sentence and a fine for the same offense.
A third-degree felony under Utah law carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. It also carries a maximum fine of $5,000. A person could potentially have both a prison sentence and a fine for the same offense, although it would be rare to receive the maximum allowed fine and the maximum allowed sentence in all but the most extreme cases.
ReferencesEstablish Child Support Orders. Utah Department of Health & Human Services.
Child Support. Utah State Courts.
Motion to Enforce Order. Utah State Courts.
Enforcement of Support Obligation. (October 2022). Utah Department of Health & Human Services.