What to Do When Your Ex Won't (or Can't) Pay Child Support

Your options are few, but there are some strategies worth employing.

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Baby boy chewing on cot
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By Geoff Williams

Andi Kimbrough would have an easier time budgeting if her ex-husband was paying the child support he owes her. Currently, his tab is $11,000, which she doesn't expect to be repaid soon. Her ex is unemployed, and his location is unknown. In fact, there's a warrant out for his arrest.

Kimbrough, 43, is gainfully employed at a local television network in Dallas/Fort Worth and is married to a service director for a car dealership. So she is part of a two-income household, which helps offset the financial challenges of not receiving regular child support for her 14-year-old and 10-year-old sons. Still, it isn't easy. Her household is sending out child support money as well.

Kimbrough's husband has three children of his own: two sons, ages 18 and 15, and an eight-year-old daughter. His ex-wife is trying to get her amount of child support increased. Right now, Kimbrough says, they're paying somewhere between $500 and $600 a month in child support.

"We struggle to pay it already and feel like there is no recourse," Kimbrough says. Those child support issues are one of the main reasons the couple has made a big decision regarding their lifestyle going forward. "We're actually moving out of our house and into an apartment," she says.

It would help if Kimbrough's ex-husband paid his child support. It's $500 a month, almost the amount her husband sends to his ex-wife.

Recent national numbers on unpaid child support are hard to come by, but $108 billion in back payments was owed to parents with custody of children in 2009, according to the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement. Unfortunately, if your ex-partner is determined not to pay child support or has few assets and can't pay, there isn't much one can do. A deadbeat or broke parent can be thrown in jail for not paying child support, but garnishing prison wages won't get you very far. Still, if you are owed child support, here are some strategies that are worth employing.

Keep the other parent involved. If you have primary custody and your ex isn't paying child support, it may be tempting to punish the other parent and prevent him (usually, it's him, but not always) from seeing your child.
That's not a good move, says Sheri Atwood, founder of SupportPay.com, an automated child-support payment platform. (It's free, unless you use premium services such as sending money to a third party, in which case it's $19.99 a month.)

"A lot of parents feel if you're not going to pay, you're not going to be involved in their life, but it works against you," Atwood says. "By keeping them involved in your children's day-to-day activities and the things going on, that helps them stay invested in your children, and if they can't pay you today, at least they're more likely, when they can afford it, to pay."

Shel Harrington, a family law attorney and an adjunct professor teaching family law at the Oklahoma City University School of Law, seconds that. "Child support issues and visitation issues are independent of each other," Harrington says. She adds that it isn't right for a child to not see a parent because that parent isn't paying child support, and "on the flip side, a parent should not stop paying child support because the other parent is denying them visitation," Harrington says.

And either parent in this situation could find themselves in legal hot water, Harrington says, even if they feel their reasons are sound for withholding money or visitation rights.

Don't budget for your child support. That is, if your ex isn't dependable. "Never build it into your budget," Kimbrough advises. "Keep it completely separate, and that way if it stops, it doesn't change your day. If it's there, you can let it build up for the necessities that you need for your children."

Don't run to your lawyer. That is, it shouldn't be your first instinct, Atwood says. Talking things out -- and picking your battles -- should be. Atwood says she knows of one customer who spent more than $12,000 in attorney fees, fighting with an ex about who would pay for a $100 pair of glasses for their child.

"He said to me, 'I know this is dumb,'" Atwood says. But, of course, emotion often trumps intellect in post-divorce universe.

If your ex can't pay you everything, ask him to pay some. Not that you want to let him off the hook, but something is better than nothing. And if you ex is truly broke, it may be better for everyone if he or she gets the child support reduced (it can always be raised if he or she gets a better job). And it's in your ex's best interest to get things straightened out with the court right away.

"All states have anti-retroactive modification laws," says Ron Lieberman, a family law attorney in Haddonfield, N.J. "Meaning that a modification of child support can't be made retroactive beyond the date of the filing of a motion in court ... so the payer has every incentive to seek immediate court action instead of ignoring his or her payment situation."

When to get the courts involved. If your ex isn't making any effort to pay, it's usually after six months when a county sheriff will begin enforcing child support, assuming the support is currently being paid through wage execution or the probation department, Lieberman says.

If child support is not being paid through those two ways, you can still file a motion in court for enforcement, Lieberman says. The filing fee in New Jersey is $30, he says, adding: "In extreme cases, a parent can ask for the waiver of the filing fee."

Then, assuming an ex isn't willing to pay child support, law enforcement has methods to try and reason with the parent, Lieberman says, including suspending his or her professional license. The courts can take away the deadbeat parent's driver's license, grab any tax refunds, garnish wages and, yes, throw the person in jail.

That still may not convince the parent, says Bruce Ailion, an associate broker with Re/Max in Atlanta and father of three who has been trying to get child support for more than a decade and can attest to how difficult it is.

His ex-wife, who owned a real-estate brokerage company with him when they divorced in 2002, owes around $80,000 in child support, he says. She has wound up in jail numerous times, and what Ailion finds amazing is that he can afford to pay for legal representation to collect his child support income -- and has still come up empty.

"With my resources, I cannot collect child support," Ailion says. "I really feel for the Waffle House waitress working two jobs."


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RoseSmith

My name is Rose Smith from united states of america. I never believed in love spells or magic until i met this spell caster once when i went to Africa in February this year on a business summit. I meant a man who’s name is DR.MADURAI he is really powerful and could help cast spells to bring back one’s gone, lost, misbehaving lover and magic money spell or spell for a good job or luck spell .I’m now happy & a living testimony cos the man i had wanted to marry left me 3 weeks before our wedding and my life was upside down cos our relationship has been on for 3years. I really loved him, but his mother was against us and he had no good paying job. So when i met this spell caster, i told him what happened and explained the situation of things to him. At first i was undecided, skeptical and doubtful, but i just gave it a try. And in 7 days when i returned to Canada, my boyfriend (now husband) called me by himself and came to me apologizing that everything had been settled with his mom and family and he got a new job interview so we should get married. I didn’t believe it cos the spell caster only asked for my name and my boyfriends name and all i wanted him to do. Well we are happily married now and we are expecting our little kid, and my husband also got the new job and our lives became much better. His email is maduraitemple@yahoo.com

March 03 2014 at 12:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Cassandra Randolph

Truly this is some bullshit... Besides all the damn facts.. Teens still need to eat.. Can a man just get a damn job and pay the hell up ..

February 06 2014 at 7:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mac2jr

Ref: Coalition for Family Law Reform...

November 22 2013 at 1:15 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
mac2jr

Fact: Money collected is being held by the government from three to six or more months before being paid to the families. This amounts to a multi-billion dollar slush fund that the government is using, and earning interest on, while our children go hungry. This is the embezzlement of the century and needs investigation.

Fact: Money paid to the spouse is not accountable by the spouse. Child support does not have to be used for the support of the children. My ex bought a truck for one boyfriend and set another up in business while my children went begging. Another individual I know used all her welfare and child support for parties and drugs. The judge’s answer to me, “it might make her feel like a second class person if she had to account for the money.” This cost my aging parents some $10,000 in rent and damages; last time they rent to welfare people.

Fact: Custodial parents frequently move or disappear. Mine, with the children, did for nearly two years.

Fact: It is the lower earning, under $30,000 a year, parents {mostly dads} that are receiving impossible to pay judgments and jail sentences. Did you know that by law one cannot be jailed for non-payment of child or spousal support? Yet, it is happening to many each day, especially to the poorer white and black males. You never see a rich deadbeat in jail, especially in Delaware.

Fact: Modifications are available if one loses a job or income. Fact, it is near impossible to get a modification hearing much less the modification. Judges have refused or ignored motions because the motion was on the wrong color paper, or not double spaced, or could not be turned end-to-end for easy reading. Additionally, if a District Attorney or County Attorney is involved, they have this ploy of canceling hearings and ignoring facts when they will lose. {Three out of three (California)} {Seven of seven (New York)}

Fact: The Melson formula is defective in that it was based on improper and false information. This is per the providers of the information and the originator of the formula. Yet, the courts continue to use this defective formula knowing it is inaccurate and biased against the payers{men}. Contact the authors for the facts.

I am sorry, but until the Family Court system is cleaned up, there will be deadbeat parents. Millions of them! The taxpayers are paying the bill for the court’s indiscretions. We all love our children, we will though not be intimidated and ripped off by those who know little of the personal, financial, or legal situation(s) of our divorces. Our only weapon is not paying until we obtain fair hearings and fair and equitable settlements.

November 22 2013 at 1:14 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
mac2jr

Fact: The law is very clear in that the person the money is owed to has from one to five years in which to diligently pursue collection of claimed support. Over half of these cases are against people who by private settlements or other arrangements of settlement were not asked or taken to court for support until years after the fact. In my case, they demanded support after 6 years, a generous settlement, and my spouse releasing me from additional support obligations four times. My daughter’s family got nailed for $70,000 18 years after the child was born. The mother made no attempts for 18 years to find or collect from the unsuspecting dad.

Fact: The courts are ignoring motions, petitions, and the law when it suits their way or discretion. I documented 48 laws broken by the court, my ex, and the District Attorney in my case. Thus far, I am the only one who has not broken any law and the only one being threatened with jail.

Fact: Those claimed to owe support are being intimidated, threatened, and jailed without due process. The law is very clear on the reading of rights and the charges of contempt. The judges are ignoring the law. If indigent, the court must provide an attorney. Don’t count on it. {I asked no less than 18 times}

Fact: Non-Welfare claims for support are being upheld and encouraged, and the taxpayers are paying the bill for government attorneys. My ex has been represented by the Santa Clara, California District Attorney for nine years. She has spent zero on attorney fees, I have spent thousands. She commits fraud, forgery, breach of contract, etc. and they continue to represent her. They refused to prosecute when she broke several laws.

Fact: Non elected and non-appointed judges are hearing some of these cases. In my case the District Attorney swore in the County Commissioner as a judge for the purpose of ruling against me without my presence, without a single fact being presented, and without my ex testifying as to why she has consistently lied to the District Attorney and the court. {It is in the transcripts}

Fact: Even when one or both parents want mediation and want to come to an equitable settlement, the courts are overruling them and making decisions that are harmful to both and the family. {I tried to settle 20 times}

Fact: Money collected by the government is not accountable by them to the payer or the person being paid. It is near impossible to obtain a statement of one’s account. I know, it took me one and one half years and many letters to representatives, senators, and finally the governor before receiving my one and only statement.

November 22 2013 at 1:14 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
mac2jr

Before you praise the Government’s efforts on ‘getting’ the deadbeat parents, do your homework. The story is sensational and a real eye popper. Talk to groups like the Center for Judicial Accountability, White Plains, N.Y., the Coalition for Family Law, Wilmington, DE., the Children’s Rights Organization, Washington, D.C., the Father’s Rights Organization, Austin, TX., and the hundreds of other groups that have come to life in the last few years. Get the facts.

We are all for responsibility, accountability, and caring for our families. The courts do not have our best interest in mind when they make rulings that are illegal, biased, corrupt, or outright stupid. I currently owe $95,000 on a claimed $26,500 billing of which $21,600 has been paid. At 6 to 15 % interest, compounded daily, there is no way to pay off this billing. Additionally, none of the $21,600 went toward the $26,500, it was all applied to the inflated interest. The original judgment was obtained by fraud, the subsequent judgment by trickery on the part of a District Attorney of whom I ticked off. {these and all other statements I make are documented and can be proven.}

Why do we have 23,000,000 deadbeat moms and dads? Simple, the system does not work for the family, it works 100% for itself. The governments, state and local, are making a bundle of money from the Federal Government and the people they claim to represent. The divorce attorneys and the collection agencies are cleaning up by not making any serious attempts to settle these cases in a manner that is acceptable to both parents. It is an adversarial system that causes more harm than good. The children are being torn apart, and it is the fault of the courts and their unscrupulous players. Although my case is in California and New York, from what I have seen, Delaware, by far, has the nastiest and most corrupt Family Court System in the country. So, before you go any further with your series, do some asking. Ask the parents what they think of the system and the judgments. On-the-air, ask, “What do you think of the Family Court System?”

Fact: One-quarter of the government’s claimed deadbeats have either moved back in with their families and are supporting them or are dead. Yes, dead! Statistics are so much fun.

Fact: States like California decided to go after all parents who did not obtain a court ordered release. It did not matter that the support obligations were paid in full or that most of these payments were paid in full some one to twenty years ago. No signed paper, you owe, and we will collect until you get a signed paper. The person being paid must first sign off. Think that will happen with them telling one spouse they can get rich?

November 22 2013 at 1:14 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
mac2jr

The list is an example of what should be inventoried and resolved, BEFORE going to an attorney or into a divorce court. I have other list that include the mortgages, taxes, insurances, credit cards, vehicles, savings, checking accounts, investments, etc. Some 16 pages of the Divorce Settlement Check List..

Not until everything is inventoried can accounted for, can the bases of a good and equitable settlement be formulated..

November 21 2013 at 8:22 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mac2jr's comment
willypfistergash

Looks like someone (mac) must have been taken to tbe cleaners by a few ex wives.

November 22 2013 at 12:38 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to willypfistergash's comment
mac2jr

Nope, just by the attorneys....

November 22 2013 at 1:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down
mac2jr

Attic
Chest $ ______.__
Other $ ______.__
Sub-Total $ ______.__

Basement
Chest $ ______.__
Other $ ______.__
Sub-Total $ ______.__

Bath # 1
Hamper $ ______.__
Trash can $ ______.__
Dressing Table $ ______.__
Other $ ______.__
Sub-Total $ ______.__

Bath # 2
Hamper $ ______.__
Trash can $ ______.__
Dressing Table $ ______.__
Other $ ______.__
Sub-Total $ ______.__

Bath # 3
Hamper $ ______.__
Trash can $ ______.__
Dressing Table $ ______.__
Other $ ______.__
Sub-Total $ ______.__

Bedroom # 1
Lowboy dresser $ ______.__
Highboy dresser $ ______.__
Bed $ ______.__
Other $ ______.__
Sub-Total $ ______.__

Bedroom # 2
Lowboy dresser $ ______.__
Highboy dresser $ ______.__
Bed $ ______.__
Other $ ______.__
Sub-Total $ ______.__

Bedroom # 3
Lowboy dresser $ ______.__
Highboy dresser $ ______.__
Bed $ ______.__ Other $ ______.__

Bedroom # 4
Lowboy dresser $ ______.__
Bed $ ______.__
Other $ ______.__
Sub-Total $ ______.__

Dining Room
Hutch $ ______.__
Dining Table $ ______.__
Dining Chairs $ ______.__
China Closet $ ______.__
Other $ ______.__
Sub-Total $ ______.__

Exercise Room
Bike $ ______.__
Mats $ ______.__
Unit # 1, equipment $ ______.__
Unit # 2 $ ______.__
Unit # 3 $ ______.__
Unit # 4 $ ______.__
Other $ ______.__
Sub-Total $ ______.__

Family Room
Pool Table $ ______.__
Stereo Cabinet $ ______.__
Media Cabinet $ ______.__
Couch $ ______.__
Chair, lounge $ ______.__
Chair, lounge $ ______.__
Sub-Total $ ______.__
Other $ ______.__

Formal Dining
Hutch $ ______.__
Dining Table $ ______.__
Dining Chairs $ ______.__
China Closet $ ______.__
Other $ ______.__

Formal Living Room
Hutch $ ______.__
Dining Table $ ______.__
Dining Chairs $ ______.__
Other $ ______.__
Sub-Total $ ______.__

Game Room
Pool Table $ ______.__
Storage Cabinet $ ______.__ Other $ ______.__
Sub-Total $ ______.__

Garage
Shelves $ ______.__
Workbench $ ______.__
Other $ ______.__
Sub-Total $ ______.__


Great Room
Table $ ______.__
Other $ ______.__
Chairs $ ______.__
Sub-Total $ ______.__

Hall, Lower
Table $ ______.__
Other $ ______.__
Sub-Total $ ______.__

Hall, Upper
Table $ ______.__
Other $ ______.__
Sub-Total

November 21 2013 at 8:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mac2jr

There was also a time in Delaware when no one except the couple and their attorneys were allowed in court, which lead to all sorts of False information and no verification of the 'he said, she said' BS.

The Coalition for Family Law Reform through pickets, news media, and other legal means got this overturned, and things 'cleaned' up considerably..

November 21 2013 at 8:14 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
mac2jr

The courts need to be reformed on this as many are not reasonable in the initial judgments, and if the payer becomes unemployed the courts may become even more unreasonable. In Delaware they were throwing unemployed fathers in jail for not paying or not paying enough, which makes NO sense whatsoever.

November 21 2013 at 8:11 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply