Yes, you read that right. Unfortunately, after a divorce, some parents who are obligated to pay child support try to avoid this responsibility, even when they are financially capable of doing so. Luckily there are some tricks to staying ahead of the parent’s excuses or justifications.
Child support amounts and timing of payments are determined in a single court order or agreement after a divorce or custody case, and while the child support orders can change or be modified if circumstances change, some parents simply go out of their way to avoid paying child support.
Common methods to avoid or ignore a child support obligation include:
1. Quitting a job or stopping work to live off public assistance or friends.
2. Working “under the table” accepting income that isn’t reported.
3. Disappearing from the lives of the children to avoid the responsibility.
Colorado, among other states, has the ability to deny licenses (driving, hunting, occupational, etc.) to people not meeting child support payments and requirements. States and local counties also have child support enforcement units that assist in the collection of past due child support. In addition, the state or enforcement unit can stop or intercept state or federal tax refunds and apply the balance toward child support. Of course, if the child support obligor (i.e. the party paying or obligated to pay child support) is not working or working under the table, the chances of the obligor filing taxes and receiving a refund decreases significantly.
A party who fails to pay child support when ordered to pay is in violation of a court order. This is called contempt of court and the punishments for violating a court order vary from remedial (or make whole remedies) to punitive (or punishing the party by making them responsible for more than the original order to include significant sentences of confinement in jail).
Child support orders are automatically considered judgments if not paid. Accordingly, some child support orders can be enforced as civil judgments allowing the child support recipient to garnish pay or levy bank accounts. Garnishments and levies are specific remedies that demand strict compliance with collection rules and regulations.
Understanding your rights and available remedies whether enforcement, contempt or post-judgment garnishment or levy remedies is critical when planning ahead to deter non-payment. Showing that you are knowledgeable about the process and available remedies early on and sticking to those remedies early on could be the difference of tens of thousands of dollars in child support, plus significant interest and costs of collections to boot.
Ultimately, though, it can be difficult to force someone to pay child support. Your ex may be doing this to punish you, but not providing financial support will punish the children. As such, it’s important to pursue actions to correct the behavior. If other avenues haven’t worked, you may be able to hold your ex legally responsible for not paying child support.
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