Has your ex been skipping out on court-ordered child support payments? If so, check out this guide to learn what to do.
Gone are the days when a “family” meant a married couple with two kids.
Today, families come in all shapes and sizes. In fact, recent statistics show 31% of children don’t live with both their parents.
If your family life includes co-parenting with an ex, you likely dealt with child support drama.
While it’s important to have a court order detail your ex’s child support obligation, it doesn’t mean smooth sailing. So what happens when the child support payments stop arriving?
Plan for Contingencies
If you’re like many single parents or parents in blended households, your monthly child support payments are necessary to make ends meet. But just because you have a legal right to child support doesn’t guarantee it will arrive.
Collecting past-due child support can take months. In the meantime, you still need to pay your bills.
Before you have issues collecting child support, create a back-up plan. Calculate how much you need each month. Then figure out how to cut enough expenses and/or make enough extra money to balance the loss of child support.
Review Your Court Order
If your ex’s child support payment seems to be late, make sure it actually is late.
Dig out your copy of the court’s child support order. Review the details of when a payment is considered “late.”
If you have questions about your ex’s obligation, ask your attorney to clarify the circumstances.
Discover the Reason
If you confirm your ex has fallen short of court-ordered support obligations, your next step is to reach out to them with caution.
Send a text or an email to remind them their payment is late. They may have forgotten and will submit their payment right away.
This also gives them a chance to explain why they haven’t yet paid. Perhaps they lost their job or have unexpected expenses. It’s important to do this in writing. If you end up back in court, it shows you made a polite and timely effort to collect the money. Depending on how they reply, it can also give you written proof they acknowledged the debt.
Be careful how you word your message. Don’t threaten them in any way and don’t bring more drama to the mix. Be clear, concise and polite.
That’s another advantage of writing your message. You might be livid about the financial hardship imposed by your ex’s late payment, but you don’t need to show it.
You can take time to write your messages in a calm and professional way.
Meet with Your Lawyer
If your ex still doesn’t pay, it’s time to involve your family law attorney.
Meet to discuss your options. Based on how far behind the payments are, your attorney may start with a letter from their office. It sometimes scares an ex enough that they’ll pay up.
If that’s not an option, your next step is to file with the court.
Petition the Court
Your lawyer can file an official complaint about your ex’s non-payment with the court. You’ll need to plead your case in person. If the judge agrees your ex owes you money, a few things could happen:
- If the court learns your ex could pay the child support but they’re willfully refusing, the judge could place them in contempt. They’ll likely go to jail until they pay what they owe.
- To make that easier, your ex may receive a work release. They work every day but must report back to jail after work.
If the court doesn’t hold your ex in contempt, they could garnish your ex’s bank account or wages. This means you get money from their employer directly until your ex is current on their payments.
The court will set a garnishment amount based on your situation and how much your ex owes.
In Nebraska, they can garnish up to 50% of your ex’s post-tax paycheck if they support another child or adult. If your ex doesn’t support anyone but your child, the court can garnish 60%.
No Court Order?
The options above only apply if you have a court order for child support payments. What happens if you and your ex tried to keep it out of the courts with an arrangement on your own?
It doesn’t matter how cordial your co-parenting relationship is at first. Anyone who isn’t married to their child’s other parent should get a child support court order.
For the parent who cares for the child, you don’t have as much legal recourse if you don’t have a court order.
If you’re the other parent and there’s no court order for you to pay child support, you’re still at real risk. If your ex later files with the court and you can’t prove your past payments, you could be ordered to pay back child support even if you paid for years.
If your ex stopped paying non-court-ordered child support, you may still have legal options if there’s a written agreement. Meet with a lawyer to discuss your options and to prepare for a future court order.
Pay for Your Child Together
No matter what your relationship is, you’re both obligated to provide for your child. If your ex doesn’t keep up with child support payments, the good news is you have legal options.
To take your first steps, call our attorneys today at (402) 415-2525.