How many zeros in a bajillion dollars? Sometime in the early 1990s, trolls and wags forged the word bajillion to join all the other words for a fantastically large amount of money. Kazillion, katrillion, umptillion — and our personal favorite, Godzillion (a cross between cool cash and a Japanese movie monster?). Just how much money does a Virginia noncustodial parent need to owe in child support to be sent to jail?

Who Can Put You In Jail?

The power to take away an American citizen’s liberty is not passed out willy-nilly. Only Virginia’s judges and law enforcement officers can put you in a Virginia jail.

The custodial parent — let’s assume it is your children’s mother and you are the noncustodial parent — cannot put you in jail. The custodial parent’s attorney cannot incarcerate you, and neither can your children’s guardian ad litem (the attorney representing their interests).

Only Virginia law officers can legally detain, arrest, and jail you. Only a Virginia judge can send you off to a Virginia corrections facility. Though some 10 percent of Virginia’s parents incarcerated for child support delinquency are women, most cases of arrearages are from noncustodial Virginia fathers.

According to the Virginia Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE), one in seven Virginia children are supposed to be receiving child support. We say supposed to be receiving it because more than a third of children owed child support are not getting what they are owed.

What are Your Chances of Going to Jail?

The U.S. Census Bureau keeps track of child support payments and publishes a report every few years. The most recent report for the year 2017 offers these depressing and startling numbers:

  • About 7 in 10 custodial parents (69.8 percent) who were supposed to receive child support in 2017 received at least some payments.
  • Less than half (45.9 percent) of custodial parents who were supposed to receive child support received full child support payments.
  • The aggregate amount of child support that was supposed to have been received in 2017 was $30.0 billion; 62.2 percent of that amount was received, averaging $3,431 per custodial parent for the year.

The Census Bureau is being polite here; if 62.2 percent of child support payments was received means 37.8 percent of $30 billion, or $11,340, 000, 000, was not received by children who, frankly, could really use the money.

Just divvying up those arrearages equally to the fifty states, Virginia’s kids hypothetically missed about $226,800,000 in child support payments in one year.

Given those dismal numbers, chances are high that a Virginia dad delinquent in child support payments will face serious legal trouble, including the prospect of jail time.

How Much Child Support Do You Owe?

In the face of these grim numbers, Virginia’s courts will try everything before they jail a delinquent noncustodial parent. Let’s assume you, a Virginia man, are one of the delinquent Dads.

The children’s guardian ad litem, the custodial parent’s attorney, or the DCSE can bring a case against you. When a magistrate or judge hears the case, the typical avenues of extracting support money for your children, according to DCSE, will be:

  • having your employer withhold support from your wages;
  • issuing liens and orders to withhold money in bank accounts and other financial institution accounts;
  • seizing and selling your property;
  • intercepting state and federal payments and refunds due you;
  • reporting your past due support to consumer reporting agencies;
  • requesting the Secretary of State to deny, revoke, restrict or limit your passport; and
  • having the Virginia Employment Commission withhold support from your unemployment benefits.

No bottom dollar amount is mentioned in the list of DCSE actions. That is entirely up to the judge or magistrate. In addition, again quoting DCSE,

If you owe at least $5,000 or are behind at least 90 days in your payments or you fail to respond to a subpoena, summons or warrant issued by the Division, [DCSE] may take the following actions:

1. Ask the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to suspend or refuse to renew your driver’s license.

2. Ask the court to require you to turn in any certificate, registration, or other business, trade, professional, occupational or recreational license (including hunting and fishing) issued to you

No matter how much you owe your own children, you are not likely to be jailed for being in arrears, because Virginia cannot collect blood from a stone. You are more likely to feel the pinch of DCSE through every possible income stream you have.

In the face of known unknowns, rely on the experienced child support attorneys at The Firm For Men. Contact our office online or by telephone at (757) 383-9184. We specialize in upholding Virginia men’s rights in all aspects of family law. Avoid jail. Partner with us to protect yourself.