Many parents receiving non-court-ordered child support have been stunned when the support ended and they find, to their dismay, the courts look at such support more as a gift than a requirement. Absent a formal written agreement between the two parties, when a parent who has been paying non-court-ordered child support suddenly stops, the other parent has few options other than to return to court, and petition for court-ordered child support payments. If you and your ex had a friendly divorce and you had a verbal agreement that he or she would pay regular child support, you may have truly believed you needed little else. Lives change, and that person may now be remarried and supporting a new family.
THE LAWS REGARDING NON-PAYMENT OF CHILD SUPPORT
Because there is no legal agreement or order in place, it can be shockingly easy to simply quit paying child support. While this may not be the ethical route, it is not illegal. The laws have made it much harder for “deadbeat” parents to skip out on child support, with strict laws being enacted in virtually every state. Further, federal, state and local agencies have some pretty powerful child-support collection tools at their disposal. If your ex refuses to continue to pay child support or refuses to communicate with you regarding the issue, you will need to get a court order to establish child support. There are state guidelines in place to assist you, although your greatest resource is your divorce attorney.
HAVING COURT-ORDERED CHILD SUPPORT SET
Your attorney can petition the court to have child support amounts set. The judge will take into consideration the current income of both parents, the time the child or children spend with each parent and whether a parent is supporting other children. Once a child support order has been established, it must be obeyed, or the parent who is ignoring the order could face serious repercussions. A parent who is delinquent in child support payments may be subject to any or all of the following:
Wage deductions, in which the child support is taken directly out of the non-custodial parent’s regular paycheck.
Federal income tax interceptions in which the state intercepts a tax refund to cover late or missing child support payments.
A parent who is delinquent in child support payments could find his or her driver’s license or professional license revoked for non-payment.
Passport restrictions could be imposed on parents who fail to pay child support—the passport may not be renewed, or the parent may be prevented from leaving the country.
The non-paying parent may face contempt of court charges, which could result in a fine or even jail time.
A lien may be placed on the delinquent parent’s property.
FEDERAL PENALTIES FOR NON-PAYMENT OF CHILD SUPPORT
There is also federal prosecution for non-paying parents through the U.S. Office of the Inspector General. When the non-custodial parent lives in a state other than where the child lives, has refused to pay court-ordered child support for more than a year, owes more than $5,000 and has actually traveled to another state to avoid paying child support, the federal laws kick in. For a first offense of non-payment, punishment can include fines and up to six months in prison—or both. For a second offense, when the child support has not been paid in more than two years and the parent owes more than $10,000, the punishment can be a fine as large as $250,000 and up to two years in prison.
If you are attempting to claim back child support and your ex can show through check copies or some other type of receipt that he or she did pay non-ordered child support, back child support may not be ordered. Just as when you were going through your divorce, letting an experienced divorce attorney handle child support procurement can save you lots of stress and headaches. Contact the Boulder divorce attorneys at Goff & Goff, LLC today for a free initial consultation.