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Can the failure to pay child support lead to misdemeanor charges?

When divorced or separated parents in New York and elsewhere encounter financial trouble, they do not often consider the possibility of facing criminal charges in these situations. However, when child support is ordered following a divorce or split of an unmarried couple, obligations are placed on the parent required to pay support for their child or children. Moreover, the failure to pay child support could result in a parent being charged with a misdemeanor.

Does the failure to pay child support lead to misdemeanor charges in New York? According to the New York Penal Code, this misdemeanor charge could occur in two circumstances. Section 260.05 states that an individual is found guilty of non-support of a child in the second degree when a parent or guardian of a child less than 16-years-old fails to or refuses, without any lawful excuse, to provide support for the child when he or she is able to or suddenly is unable to because he or she voluntarily terminates their employment, voluntarily reduces their earning capacity or fails to diligently seek employment.

A parent or guardian could be found guilty of this charge if he or she was obligated to make support payments through a judgment made by the court and fails or refuses to make these payments for a child less than 18-years-old. Additionally, without any lawful excuse, he or she fails to provide support when they are able to or he or she becomes unable to because they voluntarily terminates their employment, voluntarily reduces their earning capacity or fails to diligently seek employment.

When a parent is accused of such a charge, both family law issues and criminal penalties associated with this misdemeanor charge could lead to significant consequences. Because of the severity of these charges, it is important that parents understand how to plan a defense against these charges. For example, a parent might have a lawful excuse, and proper documentation that indicates a substantial change in circumstances could help the defendant reduce or dismiss the charges.

Source: Ypdcrime.com, "ยง260.05 Non-support of a child in the second degree," accessed Dec. 7, 2015

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