Code of the District of Columbia

§ 46–225.02. Criminal contempt remedy for failure to pay child support.

(a) The Mayor or a party who has a legal claim to child support may initiate a criminal contempt action for failure to pay the support by filing a motion in the civil action in which the support order was established.

(b)(1) Upon a finding by the Court that an obligor has willfully failed to obey a lawful support order, the Court may:

(A) Commit the obligor to jail for a term not to exceed 180 days;

(B) Order the obligor to participate in a rehabilitative program, if the Court determines that participation would assist the obligor in complying with the support order and access to such program is available;

(C) Order the obligor to accept appropriate available employment or participate in job search and placement activities; or

(D) Place the obligor on probation under such conditions as the Court may determine and in accordance with the provisions of the criminal procedure law.

(2) The Court may direct that an obligor’s commitment may be served upon certain specified days or parts of days. The Court may suspend all or part of a sentence and may, at any time within the term of the sentence, revoke the suspension and commit the obligor for the remainder of the original sentence. A period of commitment shall not prevent the Court from committing the obligor for a subsequent failure to comply with a support order.

(3) For the purposes of paragraph (1)(B) of this subsection, the term “rehabilitative program” shall include work preparation and skill programs, non-residential alcohol and substance abuse programs, and educational programs.

(c) The Court shall order the obligor to pay the petitioner’s attorney’s fees as well as court costs, unless good cause can be demonstrated on the record against this result.

(d) For purposes of this section, failure to pay child support, as ordered, shall constitute prima facie evidence of a willful violation. This presumption may be rebutted if the obligor was incarcerated, hospitalized, or had a disability during the period of nonsupport. These circumstances do not constitute an exhaustive list of circumstances that may be used to rebut the presumption of willfulness.

(e) The Court shall not deny a request for relief pursuant to this section unless the facts and circumstances constituting the reasons for its determination are set forth in a written memorandum of decision.


(Feb. 24, 1987, D.C. Law 6-166, § 26b; as added Mar. 6, 2002, D.C. Law 14-81, § 2, 49 DCR 11270); May 12, 2006, D.C. Law 16-100, § 3(z), 53 DCR 1886; Apr. 24, 2007, D.C. Law 16-305, § 72, 53 DCR 6198.)

Section References

This section is referenced in § 16-916.01 and § 46-204.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 16-100 rewrote the section, which had read:

“(a) The Mayor or any party who has a legal claim to any child support may initiate a criminal contempt action for failure to pay the support by filing a motion in the civil action in which the child support order was established.

“(b)(1) Upon a finding by the court that an obligor has willfully failed to obey any lawful order of child support, the court may:

“(A) Commit the obligor to jail for a term not to exceed 180 days;

“(B) Order the obligor to participate in a rehabilitative program, if the court determines that participation would assist the obligor in complying with the order of child support and access to such program is available;

“(C) Order the obligor to accept appropriate available employment or participate in job search and placement activities; or

“(D) Place the obligor on probation under such conditions as the court may determine and in accordance with the provisions of the criminal procedure law.

“(2) The court may direct that an obligor’s commitment may be served upon certain specified days or parts of days. The court may suspend all or part of a sentence and may, at any time within the term of the sentence, revoke the suspension and commit the obligor for the remainder of the original sentence. A period of commitment shall not prevent the court from committing the obligor for a subsequent failure to comply with an order of child support.

“(3) For the purposes of paragraph (1)(B) of this subsection, the term ‘rehabilitative program’ shall include work preparation and skill programs, non-residential alcohol and substance abuse programs, and educational programs.

“(c) The court shall order the obligor to pay the petitioner’s attorney fees as well as the court costs, unless good cause can be demonstrated on the record against this result.

“(d) For purposes of this section, failure to pay child support, as ordered, shall constitute prima facie evidence of a willful violation. This presumption may be rebutted if the obligor was incarcerated, hospitalized, or disabled during the period of nonsupport. These circumstances do not constitute an exhaustive list of circumstances that may be used to rebut the presumption of willfulness.

“(e) The court shall not deny any request for relief pursuant to this section unless the facts and circumstances constituting the reasons for its determination are set forth in a written memorandum of decision.”

D.C. Law 16-305, in subsec. (d), substituted “had a disability” for “disabled”.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) addition of section, see § 2 of Child Support Enforcement Emergency Amendment Act of 2001 (D.C. Act 14-181, November 19, 2001, 48 DCR 11069).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 3(aa) of Income Withholding Transfer and Revision Emergency Amendment Act of 2005 (D.C. Act 16-167, July 26, 2005, 52 DCR 7648).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 3(aa) of Income Withholding Transfer and Revision Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2005 (D.C. Act 16-200, November 17, 2005, 52 DCR 10490).

Temporary Legislation

Section 3(aa) of D.C. Law 16-42 rewrote section to read as follows:

“Sec. 26b. Criminal contempt remedy for failure to pay child support.

“(a) The Mayor or a party who has a legal claim to child support may initiate a criminal contempt action for failure to pay the support by filing a motion in the civil action in which the support order was established.

“(b)(1) Upon a finding by the Court that an obligor has willfully failed to obey a lawful support order, the Court may:

“(A) Commit the obligor to jail for a term not to exceed 180 days;

“(B) Order the obligor to participate in a rehabilitative program, if the Court determines that participation would assist the obligor in complying with the support order and access to such program is available;

“(C) Order the obligor to accept appropriate available employment or participate in job search and placement activities; or

“(D) Place the obligor on probation under such conditions as the Court may determine and in accordance with the provisions of the criminal procedure law.

“(2) The Court may direct that an obligor’s commitment may be served upon certain specified days or parts of days. The Court may suspend all or part of a sentence and may, at any time within the term of the sentence, revoke the suspension and commit the obligor for the remainder of the original sentence. A period of commitment shall not prevent the Court from committing the obligor for a subsequent failure to comply with a support order.

“(3) For the purposes of paragraph (1)(B) of this subsection, the term ‘rehabilitative program’ shall include work preparation and skill programs, non-residential alcohol and substance abuse programs, and educational programs.

“(c) The Court shall order the obligor to pay the petitioner’s attorney’s fees as well as court costs, unless good cause can be demonstrated on the record against this result.

“(d) For purposes of this section, failure to pay child support, as ordered, shall constitute prima facie evidence of a willful violation. This presumption may be rebutted if the obligor was incarcerated, hospitalized, or disabled during the period of nonsupport. These circumstances do not constitute an exhaustive list of circumstances that may be used to rebut the presumption of willfulness.

“(e) The Court shall not deny a request for relief pursuant to this section unless the facts and circumstances constituting the reasons for its determination are set forth in a written memorandum of decision.”

Section 5(b) of D.C. Law 16-42 provided that the act shall expire after 225 days of its having taken effect.