As a general matter of law and principle, parents are considered to have a legal obligation to provide for and support their children. Failure to do so, therefore, can result in criminal charges being brought against you for a cause of action called “criminal non-support.”
What is Criminal Non-Support?
Non-support is a criminal offense, in some way or another, in all fifty states, and the punishments range from fines and misdemeanors to felonies. Generally, in order to be charged with criminal non-support, the state must prove that you (1) intentionally or knowingly (2) failed to provide support for your children. However, courts understand the difference between parents who are struggling financially such that they “cannot” support their children and those who “will not” fulfill their obligations. This is known in legal circles as the “can’t and won’t” standard. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you present your case to the court such that it is clear on which side you fall.
How are Support Payments Determined?
Your child support obligations are generally determined based on your financial ability to pay, including the number of children and families being supported and your income. However, if you have a sudden material change in your income, such as the unexpected loss of a job, it may take the courts some time to modify your support obligations. Accordingly, this can cause you to enter arrears and may result in criminal non-support charges.
Reducing the Seriousness of Your Offense
In many states, the seriousness of the offense is dependent on the following factors:
- The amount you are in arrears
- The number of months in which you have made NO payment
- Whether you have been convicted of the offense previously
- Whether by non-payment you are in violation of a court order
Criminal non-support is sometimes referred to as “flagrant non-support,” in that it is considered a more serious offense if you choose not to support your children due to reasons that are not financial. Accordingly, making small payments each month, even if those payments are less than what you owe, can go a long way in showing the court that your non-support is not intentional, but rather financial. Further, informing the court and your children’s caretakers of your financial difficulties as soon as you are able may also help reduce the chances of you being charged with criminal non-support.
Contact a Qualified St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you have been charged with criminal non-support or are simply in arrears and seeking legal counsel, contact the experienced St. Petersburg criminal defense attorneys at Khonsari Law Group today for a free, no-risk analysis of your case. Our legal team has been helping build bridges between families by working to resolve issues of criminal non-support in the St. Petersburg area for many years. We can assist you in making a plan to avoid non-support charges or present your case to the court. Contact them today at (727) 269-5300.