No matter which side of a child support dispute you are on, it is best you follow the law, obey the child support order, and act in good faith. A parent may genuinely be unable to pay for support, or their failure can be a ploy to extract a concession from the other parent.
What is Child Support?
Child support is an ongoing, periodic payment by a parent for the financial benefit of a child. This can be done through a private agreement or a court order. Child support arrangements can be between parents who never married or who divorced. Although payments go to a parent, they are to benefit a child.
How is the Amount Determined?
The amount of child support in a court order is based on statewide guidelines established by the state’s Supreme Court. Both parents’ incomes are calculated, and the number of children (among other factors) is considered. The guidelines are meant to ensure that similarly situated parties are treated similarly. Once the amount of support is identified, the amount is divided between the parents based on their incomes and the custody schedule.
Can the Amount Change?
A change in the income of either party or a change in the custody schedule can affect the amount. If you are having problems making payments, contact our office. We can try to modify the existing court order by successfully showing a judge that a material and substantial change in circumstances makes it impossible for you to continue making the payments.
This is usually a difficult hurdle to overcome, but it can be done. It can include such circumstances as the payor suffering from a chronic illness or disability impacting their earnings, the birth of another child, or the other parent increasing their income. What is not relevant is that the other parent is not living up to custody or visitation arrangements. Two wrongs do not make a right when paying child support.
If you are paying support and know that you will be facing financial problems or they are already impacting you, it is best to discuss this with the other parent and try to reach a resolution. Suddenly stopping or cutting your payment will not improve the situation.
What Efforts Can Be Used to Compel Payment?
If you are the one not getting a full or any payment, we can engage with the other parent or their attorney to try to resolve the problem. They may be acting in good faith. This may be a temporary problem or the start of a long-term issue. Though you may be frustrated and angry, this is not a valid reason to ignore your visitation or custody obligations to try to punish the other parent.
If a motion to modify support payment fails or no motion is filed, the court will assist in monitoring compliance with the order. It should consider petitions for contempt and enforcement for lack of compliance. Depending on the circumstances and whether this is a recurring problem, the non-paying parent faces measures consistent with state and federal laws, including:
- The amount can be withheld from paychecks, worker’s compensation, and unemployment benefit payments.
- Bank accounts can be seized.
- The non-custodial parent’s driver’s, professional, or recreational licenses can be suspended, not renewed, or denied.
- Lottery winnings and federal tax refunds can be withheld.
- The application for a passport can be denied.
- Consumer credit bureaus could be notified, potentially affecting their credit rating, impacting their ability to get loans, or increasing their interest rates.
- Liens can be put on property.
- Payment of the other parent’s court costs can be ordered.
- They can face jail time, fines, or probation.
To achieve these outcomes, you will probably need the services of an attorney experienced in handling child support disputes. If you have questions about child support or want to schedule a free consultation, call Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C. at (215) 752-6200 today.