Understanding the legal implications of failing to meet child support obligations is crucial for anyone navigating family law in Nevada. The failure to pay court-ordered child support or spousal support is taken seriously and can lead to criminal charges under NRS 201.020. The consequences of such delinquencies can range from jail time to monetary fines, depending on the amount owed. In today’s post, we will address a common concern relating to NRS 201.020 – What happens if you don’t pay child support in the state of Nevada?

NRS 201.020 | Can Failing to Pay Child Support Land You in Jail in Nevada?

How Does Nevada Law Define Failure to Pay Child Support?

In Nevada, the deliberate failure to adhere to a court mandate regarding the financial support of your spouse (or former spouse) and children—whether minors or adults incapacitated due to illness, incompetence, or disability—constitutes a criminal act. The crux of the matter for prosecution lies in proving the individual’s intentional avoidance of financial responsibility. This can be demonstrated in two primary ways:

  • Choosing to be unemployed or underemployed, without a valid reason, aiming to evade support payments.
  • An inability to pay due to reckless spending, significant debt, or other financial obligations.

It’s critical to note that the jurisdiction for prosecuting such offenses extends across county lines, meaning charges can be brought in the county where the support payer or recipient resides. Furthermore, contrary to common belief, marital privilege does not protect spouses from testifying against each other in these support-related legal proceedings.

Support Enforcement in Nevada
To ensure children and spouses receive the support owed to them, Nevada boasts various programs and institutions devoted to enforcement. The Child Support Enforcement Program, run by the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, alongside Las Vegas’s Clark County Family Court’s self-help services, offer essential resources and assistance.

Federal Implications for Nonsupport
Under specific instances, failing to pay child support escalates to a federal offense, especially when the non-paying parent and child live in separate states. This federal crime is considered when nonpayment persists for over a year or the due amount exceeds $5,000.

What Are the Consequences of Failing to Meet Child or Spousal Support Obligations in Nevada?

In Nevada, the ramifications for not fulfilling child or spousal support obligations vary based on the overdue support amount and any prior violations. Understanding these penalties is crucial for anyone navigating child or spousal support issues within the state.

Initial Offense Penalties
For amounts under $10,000, the law treats the failure to pay support as a misdemeanor. Those found guilty could face:

  • A maximum jail time of six months, and/or
  • Fines reaching up to $1,000.

However, when the overdue support surpasses $10,000, the offense escalates to a category C felony and entails:

  • Imprisonment between one to five years in the Nevada State Prison, and
  • Potential fines up to $10,000.

Consequences for Recurring Violations
Should there be a second or subsequent breach in meeting support payments, the severity of penalties depends on the total due. For arrears less than $5,000, the misdemeanor penalty includes:

  • Up to six months in custody, and/or
  • Fines up to $1,000.

For outstanding amounts of $5,000 or more, the individual faces a category C felony, which includes:

  • A prison sentence ranging from one to five years, and
  • Possible fines up to $10,000.

Impact on Child Custody
Beyond criminal penalties, failing to pay child support can influence custody decisions in family court. While these matters are separate from criminal proceedings, a conviction under NRS 201.020 for nonpayment could be a factor in determining both physical and legal custody by a family court judge.

What Are Valid Defenses Against Charges for Failing to Pay Child or Spousal Support in Nevada?

When facing charges for not paying child or spousal support in Nevada, it’s critical to understand that valid defenses can potentially lead to the dismissal of these charges. However, these defenses must convincingly prove that the payment failures were not due to the individual’s fault.

The most persuasive defense in such cases is proving an inability to pay due to circumstances beyond one’s control. Several situations can support this defense, including:

  • Persistent Job Search Without Success: Demonstrating that you have actively but unsuccessfully sought employment can serve as a crucial defense.
  • Health Issues or Incapacity: Proof that you were unable to work due to illness or incapacitation highlights your inability to meet payment obligations.
  • Incarceration Without Access to Funds: Being incarcerated with no available funds also constitutes a valid defense, emphasizing the lack of means to fulfill support payments.

It’s important to note that ignorance of payment failures does not constitute a defense under NRS 201.020. The judicial system presumes that the absence of payment is a deliberate act, making the “unawareness” argument ineffective.

For families navigating the complexities of support enforcement or those accused of non-support, professional guidance can prove invaluable. Stay informed, seek assistance if needed, and prioritize fulfilling these critical financial obligations.

For further legal assistance and to discuss your case with an expert, don’t hesitate to contact ATAC LAW.