Failure to Pay Child Support in Nevada: The Consequences of Willfully Not Paying Child Support – Federal Law Recap (18 U.S.C.  228)

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Child support is a legal agreement between parents to ensure that their child’s financial needs are met. A parent who fails to pay child support in a timely manner is committing a crime. Willfully not paying child support can have serious consequences, including federal criminal charges.

As a parent, it is essential to understand the legal ramifications of non-payment. In this article, we will explore the federal crime of willfully not paying child support, the penalties for non-payment, defenses against charges, the impact on child custody, and state-specific laws. We will also provide answers to commonly asked questions to help you better understand this complex area of law.

Understanding Federal Law

It is a sad reality that not everyone fulfills their duties as parents. In some cases, a parent might refuse to pay child support, leaving the other parent to bear the financial burden.

Fortunately, Federal Law offers some protection for those in this difficult situation.

While Nevada has its own laws, under federal law, if a parent willfully fails to pay more than $5,000 in child support or neglects to pay for a year or longer, they are committing a crime. The law is clear: parents must step up and support their children, no matter what.

Ultimately, the well-being of the child is the most important thing, and Federal Law recognizes that.

Federal Penalties for Willful Non-Payment

Child support is a way of ensuring that children receive the financial support they need to thrive. But sometimes, parents fall behind on these payments, either intentionally or unintentionally. It’s important to remember that failing to pay child support can have serious consequences.

Penalties may include hefty fines and even potential prison time of up to two years. In addition, individuals who are found guilty of not paying child support will be required to make full restitution of all unpaid payments. So, if you’re struggling to keep up with child support payments, it’s crucial to seek help and make a plan to get back on track.

What Constitutes a Federal Crime for Not Making Child Support Payments?

Federal Crime charges could be filed if:

  • The child support non-payments exceed the monetary threshold of $5,000 or the non-payments have occurred for longer than one year.
  • If the parent voluntarily traveled to another state with the intent to bypass child support payments (you cannot avoid them by moving) or if the parent or guardian did not pay for child support for a child who lives in a different state. The lack of payments would have to be done willfully.

Federal Court would only come into play if more than one state is involved. If the situation only involves one single state then only a state charge would be made. An example would be:

Kenny resides in Las Vegas but his young daughter lives in Reno, NV. Kenny stops making his child support payments for more than a year. If he is caught then he would most likely be arrested and booked at the Clark County Detention Center (CCDC) with state charges being filed against him. Because both he and his daughter reside in the state of Nevada and because he did not leave to avoid making payments, Federal charges would not be filed.

If Federal charges were filed and a defendant had to go to trial, the hearings would occur at the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse if in Las Vegas or if in Reno the trial would be held at the Bruce R. Thompson Federal Courthouse.

Penalties for Violation of 18 USC 228

If the following requirements are satisfied, there could potentially be a penalty of six months of Federal prison confinement for not paying child support.

A variety of fines or taxes may also be levied:

  • If it is the defendant’s first violation for non payment and
  • The defendant did not leave the state they reside in with the intent to avoid making their child support payments, and
  • If the defendant stopped making payments for longer than two full years or if the amount of non payments is in arrears by more than $10,000.

If these conditions are not met then non-payment for agreed upon child support could carry up to two years in prison along with a fine and possible restitution. The judge would be the one to order the full restitution which would equate to the outstanding balance of child support payments owed.

Federal vs Nevada Law Regarding Failure to Pay Child Support

When it comes to matters of child custody, it can be a complicated and emotional process for all parties involved.

Factors to Consider

Geography plays a pivotal role when it comes to Nevada state law and Federal laws regarding child support. As mentioned earlier, Federal law only becomes relevant if the parent and child reside in different states or if the parent relocates to a new state with the intention of evading child support payments.

If both the defendant and the child reside in Nevada, it’s important to note that Nevada state law will apply.

One other factor for jurisdiction pertains to the amount of money involved. In the state of Nevada, failure to make one payment may bring on prosecution regardless of the actual dollar amount. For Federal law to kick in, the missing payments would need to be in excess of $5,000 or the payments must be defunct for greater than one year.


Coming up short on finances can lead to dire consequences in Nevada.

Those who default on debts of $10,000 or less can face a misdemeanor charge with penalties such as six months jail time and a $1,000 fine.

However, the situation becomes much more severe when the debt exceeds this amount as it turns into a category C felony. In such cases, individuals might face penalties of up to five years in prison and a hefty fine of $10,000.

Given the severity of the consequences, it is highly advisable to make timely payments and avoid accumulating uncontrollable debts.

Furthermore, for those who have already had one offense, they should take note that the second offense threshold is a reduced $5,000, making the stakes even higher.

Meaning, if you missed a payment of $5,000 or more and have been previously convicted of the same crime, you could face larger fines and longer terms in jail.

Common Defenses

Only willful nonpayment of child support is considered a crime under Federal law. Because of that requirement, the most common way to defend yourself is to make the case that the non-payment was due to a mistake or accident. A case could also be made if the defendant had no means to pay (examples could be out of work or a frozen bank account).

Typically, a Federal Court will presume that a defendant is always financially able to make their legally endorsed child support payments. So, it is up to the defense attorneys to show the courts that they are wrong. The most common ways to do this are to show that:

  • The defendant does not have a job and has not been able to find employment even though they have been diligently seeking employment.
  • The defendant has been disabled or has become too sick to work.
  • The defendant was arrested or incarcerated and did not have sufficient funds in their banking account to continue to make their child support payments.

Much like other charges, it is up to the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not pay their child support willfully. If the defense attorneys can make their case, there would be no criminal liability.

Impact on Child Custody

The judge in a criminal case is unable to make decisions regarding child custody. Child custody is considered a civil matter and therefore is handled by a family law judge.

A judge may consider fault for non-payment when making child custody decisions. Failure to pay support can signal the non-custodial parent’s inability or unwillingness to support their child. This could influence the judge’s determination of childcare responsibilities and parenting time. Thus a parent who is unable to make timely payments may also lose some custody rights.

Can Someone Be Prosecuted Under Both State and Federal Laws for Not Making Child Support Payments?

The answer to this question is affirmative assuming both the child and the defendant don’t both reside in Nevada. If a defendant is charged and convicted under both State and Federal laws, prison sentences may be served consecutively thus extending the time served as the state charges would be served and then then Federal charges.

If you need help and are in trouble with your child support let us know and we can help. We will study your case and come up with a defense for you.

Your Defense Lawyers

Willfully not paying child support can have significant consequences for parents and their children. Federal law and state laws enforce child support orders, making non-payment a federal criminal offense or a state-level misdemeanor or felony.

Understanding the potential criminal consequences and legal defenses is essential for parents facing these types of charges. If you or a loved one is facing accusations of non-payment of child support, it is crucial to consult a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to help protect your rights and interests.

The Defenders is a criminal defense law firm whose lawyers defend clients arrested or charged with DUIs, felonies, misdemeanors, domestic violence, sex crimes, murder, drug possession, white collar crimes and more than a dozen other criminal case categories.

Here’s what you need to know.

First, time is critical. You need help now, before the trouble gets any deeper.

Second, the choice of a law firm you make now can affect the outcome of your case and make a lifetime of difference.

You need to work with a Nevada-based law firm, one whose lawyers know the ins and outs of the local court system and laws. The Defenders is that law firm, one with proven results for clients.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a parent be arrested for not paying child support?

Yes, they can. Parents with child support obligations who fail to pay may face charges for contempt of court, which can result in fines, probation, or jail time.

What happens if a parent can’t pay child support?

A parent unable to pay child support may request a modification of their support order. A judge may reduce the amount owed if there is a legitimate change in circumstance, like a job loss or medical problem.

What should I do if I’m accused of willfully not paying child support?

Contacting a criminal defense lawyer is critical for those facing a willful non-payment charge as a wrongful conviction could mean facing jail time and severe monetary penalties. Defendants need someone who understands the legal process and can help them get the best possible outcome.

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