Many people come to Law Office of Manning & Zimmerman PLLC in order to get help from a Manchester divorce lawyer with child support enforcement in their cases. When a child support order has been issued and the parent who is supposed to pay does not, there are several different things that you can do. In order to provide better help to people who are dealing with child support issues, we have addressed the child support enforcement questions a Manchester divorce lawyer is most frequently asked.
In 1984, Congress passed the Child Support Enforcement Act as amendments to Part D of Title IV of the Social Security Act. This federal law empowers district attorneys to help parents seek and collect child support they are owed and which the ordered parent is refusing to pay. As the first step in the process, the district attorney will have your former spouse or child’s parent served with copies of the papers that inform the parent of the enforcement action and tell them they need to schedule a time to work out a payment arrangement with the district attorney’s office. If the parent fails to follow through or to meet with the district attorney, they will then have several different punitive options they may seek to impose, including:
The reason that jail is used only as a last resort is because if the parent is in jail, they will not be making money needed to support their children. However, if your ex refuses to pay despite being subjected to the other enforcement actions, the court may find them to be in contempt of the court’s order and impose a jail sentence. A Manchester family law lawyer can help you with your various enforcement actions so you can get the child support that is owed to you.
To address the problem of parents moving out of state and then refusing to pay their court-ordered child support, Congress passed the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, or UIFSA. This law outlines what you can do to collect your child support from your ex in their new state. If New Hampshire has jurisdiction over your ex, you can seek to enforce your child support order through the courts here. If New Hampshire no longer has personal jurisdiction over your ex-spouse, you can request that the court send copies of your child support order to the court in the jurisdiction in which your ex-spouse lives. You would then request that that court enforce the child support order. You can also travel to the state and personally file an enforcement action with the court or send a copy of your child support order to your ex’s employer to request a wage garnishment. Failing to pay child support to a parent in another state is treated seriously, and in 1998, Congress passed the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act, which makes it a felony for a parent to do so. If you are having trouble finding your ex, your Manchester family law lawyer can help you locate them by using an investigator.
Even if your ex has fallen behind in their child support payments to you, courts still treat it seriously. The court will still enforce your child support order and seek the arrearage amount owed to you. Even if your ex has sought and received a reduction in their child support payments, the reduction is not applied retroactively, and they will still be ordered to pay you the back child support owed in full.
If you lose your job and you have a child support order to pay for your child, it is important that you seek help. The child support order will still be in effect, and the payment amounts will continue to accumulate. The child support will not simply disappear when your job ends. You can file a motion to modify your child support amount with the court, keeping in mind that if you receive a modification, you will still have to pay any amount by which you may have gotten in arrears. It is thus important for you to continue making your payments as ordered until and unless the court grants your requested modification. The court might agree to reduce your payments or to grant you a temporary stay while you seek new employment.
While many different types of unsecured debts can be discharged in bankruptcy, federal bankruptcy law specifically forbids discharging back-owed child support through such a bankruptcy petition. Since child support is meant to provide for the support of children, discharging it in bankruptcy would be contrary to public policy and is simply not allowed. Again, if you’ve had a substantial change in your financial circumstances, you can petition the court for a reduction of your payment amount, but your child support will not just simply go away or be discharged in any bankruptcy petition.
Child support orders generally run forward from their filing date. If you and your ex split some time ago and you are only now filing for child support, the amount you will receive will run from the date you file. It is thus important for you to file for your child support as early as possible instead of waiting.
If you are still married and living with your spouse, it is unlikely that a court will order your spouse to pay you child support. If you are married but living separately and are not receiving child support, you can file a motion for child support from your spouse. There have been a few rare cases across the country in which courts have ordered a spouse to provide financial support for their children when they are still married and living with their spouse, but such cases have had exceptional circumstances.
If your ex has claimed that you are in arrears in paying your child support, it will be your burden to prove that you have made the payments, and if you are unable to prove it, you will be ordered to pay the arrearage amount claimed. This is why it is extremely important that you pay in the manner outlined in your child support order. If you are told to make your payment to the court, do so and do not make your payment directly to your ex-spouse. If you are ordered to make payments directly to your ex-spouse, never do so in cash and instead use a check or money order. Always require a receipt for your payment and save it. If your ex does claim an arrearage, you will still have to present evidence of your payments to the court, including bank records, receipts, check copies, and witnesses if needed.
Joint legal custody simply means that each of you will make the major decisions affecting your child’s life together for such things as medical care, educational needs, and the religion in which they will be raised. As such, it has no effect on your child support. Joint physical custody means that you both will be responsible for financially supporting your child. The court still will order the higher-earning parent to make child support payments to the lower-earning one. If you have your child half of the time and you didn’t before, your amount might be slightly reduced but your child support will not go away, and a reduction won’t be granted unless you seek it. When parents have joint physical custody, the financial support is at least the same.
Child support and child custody are considered to be separate issues. Even if your ex is refusing to let you see your child, you are still legally responsible for making your child support payments as ordered. If your child’s other parent is actively preventing you from seeing your child, you can file a petition for custody and visitation with the court. If there is already custody and visitation order in place, you can file a motion with the court to modify the order or to hold the other parent in contempt if they fail to comply. Courts generally believe that it is in a child’s best interests to have liberal contact with both children, and as such, judges do not like it when one parent actively prevents a child from having a relationship with the other parent. However, even if that is occurring, you must still continue paying your child support as ordered and seek relief for visitation and custody of your child through the court. Never withhold child support just because your ex is keeping your child away from you.
It can be very frustrating to have to go through issues with your child support, and you may need to seek legal help to solve the problems you are having with child support enforcement. If you are a parent who is owed child support and your ex has either fallen behind or is refusing to pay, you can get help to enforce your order and collect both future child support payments on an ongoing basis as well as the amount by which they are in arrears to you. If you are a parent who is ordered to pay child support and you have suffered a significant change in your financial circumstances, you may need help to file a motion to modify your ordered amount with the court. If you have made all of your payments and your ex has filed a frivolous claim with the court claiming that you have not, an attorney can help you gather the evidence of your payments and present them to the court. Finally, if your ex is wrongfully withholding your child from you, an attorney can file a motion to hold the parent in contempt, or if you do not have a current custody and visitation order, a petition for custody or visitation on your behalf. It is important for you to continue making your child support payments as ordered even while any legal action is pending. To schedule an appointment with a Manchester divorce lawyer at The Law Office of Manning & Zimmerman PLLC, call (603) 624-7200.