How Far Behind Does Child Support Get Before a Warrant Is Issued?

patrickcrawford | December 8, 2023

While there isn’t necessarily a set amount of back child support that will trigger a warrant being issued. Legally speaking, even failing to pay $1 in child support is against the law. Maryland Code of Family Law section 10-203 is rarely going to be enforced like that, but that is the letter of the law. This statute is more concerned with willful failure to pay child support rather than falling on hard times financially. If someone who has been ordered to pay child support has lost his or her job or has become unable to work due to injury, arrangements will be made. However, if you owe child support, have the money, and have simply failed to pay it, yes, a warrant for contempt of court can be issued. 


As discussed in our article “What Happens If You Don’t Pay Child Support in Maryland,” the penalty for owing back child support can include three years in prison, a fine, and probation or community service. These are just criminal penalties; there can also be civil penalties for failure to pay child support.


What Does the Maryland Court Do About Back Child Support?

The court, in conjunction with the CSA (Child Support Administration), can do any of the following to collect back child support and punish the non-paying parent:


  • Petition the court to hold the non-paying parent in contempt
  • Garnish the non-paying parent’s wages
  • File a Motion to Compel 


How the Child Support Administration Collects Back Child Support in Maryland

Much like a collection agency, the CSA can use a wide variety of tools to collect unpaid child support (either late payments or partial payments). The CSA’s entire purpose is to ensure that child support gets to children. Because of that, they have more tools than a family law judge alone. Think of the CSA as the police officers of child support. Working in tandem, the court and the CSA can:

  • Have the non-paying parent’s driver’s license suspended
  • Deny the non-paying parent’s passport renewal or issuance.
  • Garnish the non-paying parent’s bank accounts in addition to wages.
  • Seize any of the non-paying parent’s lottery winnings.
  • Petition to have the non-paying parent’s professional licenses revoked (contractor’s license, dentistry license, etc.)
  • Intercept the non-paying parent’s federal or state tax refund.
  • Withhold back child support from the non-paying parent’s Workers Compensation awards and unemployment pay-outs
  • If the non-paying parent moves out of state while owing back child support, the CSA can refer you for federal prosecution.
  • Have a lien placed on the non-paying parent’s house or personal property, meaning when the parent tries to sell the house, the escrow company must send the back child support amount to the custodial parent first.
  • Notify the non-paying parent’s new employer that he or she owes unpaid child support.
  • Report the non-paying parent to the three credit bureaus.
  • Seize the non-paying parent’s assets.

Schedule Your Maryland Child Support Lawyer Consultation! 

The Law Office of Patrick Crawford is an Annapolis family law firm handling everything from child support to QDROs. We’d love to assist you in navigating the often rocky child support and custody terrain. Whether you need an order modified or just have questions, call (410) 216-7905 to schedule your free consultation today.

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by attorney Patrick Crawford, who has more than 16 years of legal experience practicing family law.