What Do I Do If My Ex Isn’t Paying Child Support?

If you’re in a difficult parenting relationship where you can’t get the money you’re owed for child support, the sad reality is that you’re in the majority. A recent U.S. Census report showed that only 44 percent of single-parent households get the full support they are legally entitled to.

Child support is more than just straight cash. That’s part of it, but it can also include healthcare benefits and saving toward a child’s education. If you’re in the 56 percent majority where your ex stopped paying child support, you don’t have to take it lying down. The state of New York offers a number of legal mechanisms to help make you financially whole.

The following steps can be taken against an ex who is refusing to pay child support:

  • Wage garnishment
  • Seizure of property, including their house or car
  • Placing a lien on their home or business
  • Suspending a professional license they may rely on (i.e., work as a contractor)
  • Suspending their driver’s license
  • Taking away their passport
  • Redirecting their tax refund to you
  • And, if all else fails, putting this on their credit report

As you can see, not all these steps will put immediate cash into your bank account. But taking away a passport at least ensures your ex won’t make a run for the Canadian border before this can be worked out. Placing a lien on their business means you’ll eventually collect when it’s time to sell. What’s most important though, is that taking these steps against your ex make it more painful for them to avoid you than it would be simply to pay you.

Child support payments were originally outlined and approved in family court. Decisive measures can be taken and your ex may well face jail time for not paying you what you’re owed.

What If My Ex Isn’t Working?

It’s well possible that your ex isn’t deliberately stiffing you. If they’re unemployed or underemployed, they can’t provide money they aren’t earning. When this happens, it’s imperative that your ex file for unemployment benefits. These checks can be garnished for your benefit. It likely won’t come anywhere close to meeting the full amount, but it is something and you can still eventually be paid back any support that’s in arrears.

Public assistance is different. If your ex is on a public assistance program that doesn’t presuppose having been gainfully employed (like unemployment or workers’ comp), then these checks do not count as income. However, the back payments due will still pile up if your ex chooses not to share any of their public assistance monies.

Another way your ex can get out–at least temporarily–of sending you money is if they are in jail. But what if the reason for their imprisonment is the refusal to pay child support? It would be a pretty Machiavellian move if your ex got you to throw them in jail to give them a reason to avoid child support. But don’t worry, it won’t work–if delinquent child support is the reason for their jail time, they aren’t off the hook.

What has to be emphasized is that your ex is not relieved of their responsibilities simply because their current employment situation, whatever it may be, is challenging. They should still be doing what they can, and they will still eventually owe you all past due support.

Can A Child Support Order Be Modified?

In the examples above, we assumed your ex was down on their luck, in which case you could go to court and negotiate an order for a lower child support amount. Be aware, though, that the financial conditions of your ex are not the only–or even most important–factor at stake. Any lower support amount must still meet the needs of the child.

Let’s consider the opposite scenario. Your ex could finally get that big promotion at work. Or the stock they bought took off. Are you entitled to a piece of the pie?

That will depend. All changes in child support orders–regardless of what direction they go–presume that the original order was fair and equitable. It is further required that not only the circumstances have changed, but the need has changed. This is about meeting the needs of the child.

So, let’s say your son developed some medical problems around the same time your ex got the promotion. Or, let’s assume something less drastic–maybe your son wants to try out for the hockey team, with its expensive uniform and travel schedules. The cost of raising your son has gone up. The income of your ex has gone up. This is now a situation tailor-made for negotiating a revised court order with higher levels of support.

What Are Next Steps?

The first place you should go is a lawyer’s office. Too many people accept less money than they are entitled to in child support and it’s the kids who are ultimately hurt by it. After you and your attorney sit down, you may need to make a return visit to the Family Court in New York where the original child support order was entered. This is the place to go to either work out a new order or demand enforcement of the existing one.

At Jason M. Barbara & Associates, P.C, we fight for every last penny you’re entitled to–because that’s money your children are also entitled to. We know that situations are often tense between the parents and difficult financial circumstances add to the tension. But we also know it makes a big difference when you stand your ground, insist on what your owed, and then go to work on a long-term plan to make it work. That’s what we’ve been doing for 20 years and it’s what we’ll fight to make happen for you. Call us today at (516) 406-8381 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.