Supporting their children financially is something the vast majority of parents take seriously, fulfilling their obligations regularly and on time. But when a parent fails to meet their financial obligations, the laws in Utah can and will step in to enforce payment.
Family court enforcement
The amount of money a parent is required to pay for child support is set forth in the family court’s order. Once the order is made, the parent is legally obligated to pay that amount. Although the amount can be modified under some circumstances, failure to make the payments means the parent is in violation of a court order.
When the parent is in violation, they can be held in contempt of court and fined, or even, jailed for the violation. This process takes place through the family court itself without involving prosecutorial agencies.
Utah also provides a means for prosecutorial agencies to act independent of the family courts. Utah Code Section 76-7-201 makes criminal nonsupport a misdemeanor offense in most cases, though it can also be a felony. Prosecutors can bring criminal charges against a parent when they knowingly fail to provide child support at a time when the child is in needy circumstances.
One way criminal nonsupport can be charged as a felony is when the total amount of overdue support exceeds $10,000.00. Recently, Utah made it easier for law enforcement agencies to prosecute these felony violations of nonsupport. Utah Code Section 62A-11-334, which went into effect in May, 2021, compels the Office of Recovery Services (ORS) to disclose the name of any person who owes more than $10,000.00 in child support. The Office must also disclose the total amount owed.
The attorney general, a county attorney, or district attorney may request the information at any time, and ORS has 30 days to disclose it. The information can then be used by prosecuting agencies to support a criminal charge of nonsupport as a felony offense.