Divorce is always an emotional roller coaster. Add non-payment of child support, and it becomes a financial roller coaster … and neither you nor your children are strapped in.
What can you do? First, understand that you’re not alone and that, while the law is on your side, there are many issues to consider if you’re faced with a problem in your spouse’s lack of payment.
Many non-payment situations arise from unforeseen circumstances in the father’s (or mother’s if the roles are reversed) financial situation. The loss of a job or change in income to the negative is hard for them to swallow and admit. By keeping the lines of communications open with your ex-spouse and being sensitive (and non-judgmental) of their financial situation, you can often avoid circumstances that lead to non-payment.
If their financial situation changes, offer to negotiate a more affordable arrangement with them. If possible, you should do this with your attorney so that the arrangement is documented. But being willing to work with your ex-spouse will help alleviate financial stress for him (or her) and increase the chances they’ll be able and willing to pay some amount.
But unfortunate finances isn’t the only reason non-payment situations occur.
Withholding child support is tactic often used by a non-custodial parent who’s being denied the right to visit his children. While many circumstances may warrant it, try not to limit access to children as means of punishing your ex. If you follow the letter of the divorce and custody agreement, though, the law is on your side, even if your ex-spouse doesn’t seem to be.
If your spouse is able to pay child support but refuses to, there are a number of remedies:
• Contempt of Court: A true “deadbeat dad” can be held in contempt of court for intentionally violating an order of support. If he’s not able to “show cause” for his lack of payment, he can be jailed for up to 180 days.
• Income Withholding Orders: An order can be made by the state Child Support Division instructing your ex’s employer to withhold child support payments from his wages and other income.
• Tax Intercept: This program authorizes the interception of the non-custodial parent’s federal and state tax refunds.
• Driver’s License Suspension: The state Child Support Division has the authority to suspend driver’s licenses (as well as professional, hunting, fishing and trapping licenses) until child support payments are made.
• Motor Vehicle Liens: This restricts your ex’s ability to sell or purchase a new vehicle until an agreement is reached with the Prosecuting Attorney for the release of the lien.
Obviously, it’s in the best interest of everyone involved to be reasonable during this especially difficult situation. The overall objective should always be what’s in the best interest of the children.
But when reason and communication don’t solve the problem with your ex-spouse’s non-payment of child support, consult your divorce or family attorney and explore your legal options to ensure you and your children are being cared for properly.