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Child support: dealing with a non-payer

OK, the court-mandated check from your former spouse didn’t arrive … again. Owing to that, financial matters -- especially those relating to required outlays on the kids -- seem ever-more perilous.

What do you do?

The above situation and self-asked question is a commonplace across the county, including in Georgia, millions of time each year. Instant perspective on the matter of unsatisfied child support obligations nationally can be gleaned from this statistic provided by the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement: In 2009, more than $1 billion in unpaid support obligations was outstanding from non-custodial parents to their custodial ex-partners.

A non-recipient of tardy or flatly never-coming-in checks often reacts in ways that are widely understood and in which many people can empathize. That is, he or she (most often she) reports the non-payer. She seeks legal action. She threatens to or actually does take action to curtail visitation rights.

Such tactics are not advisable, at least not as a quick knee-jerk reaction, note some child support commentators, one of whom makes this obvious point: A parent who is not right now fully or even partially satisfying payment obligations will be more motivated to do so if that parent remains involved in the children’s lives.

“Child support issues and visitation issues are independent of each other,” says Shel Harrington, a family law professor. Harrington supplements that view with a very pertinent point, namely, that denying visitation owing to failure to pay or refusing to pay because of such denial could bring combating parties back to court and before a less than enthused judge.

Trying to work things out is an optimal strategy, but, clearly, one that doesn’t always work. As noted in a recent article on child support, every state has myriad tools that it can legally employ to motivate a non-paying party who simply isn’t playing ball at all.

Those include being jailed for contempt of court, having a professional license suspended, losing the right to drive, having paychecks and tax refunds garnished and additional exactions.

An experienced family law attorney can respond to the questions and concerns of any parent who is owed child support as well any parent contesting payment obligations.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, "What to do when your ex won't (or can't) pay child support," Geoff Williams, Nov. 20, 2013

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