What is Criminal Nonsupport?

How Violating a Child Support Order Becomes Criminal Nonsupport

Criminal nonsupport defense in Utah.
Criminal nonsupport is a crime brought against individuals who do not comply with their duty to provide for their children.

Every parent has the moral (and legal) obligation to provide for the support and maintenance of their children. In every divorce involving children the court is primarily concerned with ensuring that orders are put in place that provide for the children of that marriage. Such orders usually specifically address child support payments, health insurance, education, child care, extracurricular activities, etc. When such an order is violated with respect to child support there are civil remedies such as court penalties and fines, but sometimes a violation can rise to the level of a criminal offense, known as “criminal nonsupport.”

Criminal nonsupport is a family law crime. It results when a person “having a spouse, a child, or children under the age of 18 years” “knowingly fails to provide for the support of the spouse, child, or children when any one of them: (a) is in needy circumstances; or (b) would be in needy circumstances but for support received from a source other than the defendant or paid on the defendant’s behalf.”

This type of crime is illustrated in the recently issued decision State v. McAusland, 2015 UT App 24. In that case the defendant was obligated to pay $474 in child support a month but he only paid a total of $800 over the course of a six year period. During that time the mother had relied on state assistance, her parents, her new husband, babysitters and other outside resources to make it by. The defendant argued that because mother was able to access outside help without his financial assistance and thus the element of neediness could not be satisfied. The court of appeals disagreed, because the fact that mother received cash assistance from the state, her parents, and her second husband supports a finding of neediness. The court upheld the jury’s finding of neediness.

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