Few parents can afford children; parents who are divorced are worse off than the few; and parents who never married are usually the least able of all to provide financially for their children. This reality can quickly become a disaster if child support abruptly stops. What to do immediately.
Starting Steps To Take For Collection Of Child Support
- The first thing to do is to make sure that child support is ordered. Every court in Ohio is required to issue child support provisions for minor children when parents are divorcing. Many time, unmarried parents operate informally without court intervention. Legally, unless there is an order, there is no easy way to enforce the support of children. Parents who pay each other directly without an order are giving the other parent a gift. Those parents can suddenly just stop paying. Obtaining a child support order from the court or child support agency is always the most important first step.
- Next, if you already have a child support order, figure out why the payments have stopped. Your ex could have died; if so, then contact social security immediately to obtain a monthly benefit for the child. Your ex could legitimately be out of work or they could also just be a scofflaw.
Child support orders are generally effective as of the date that the relief requested is filed with the court. Immediately filing for contempt of a court order is a two-edge sword if your ex is legitimately out-of-work. This could spurn him/her to immediately file for a reduction in child support which would establish an effective date for a reduced amount. If he/she is laid-off because of Covid or other illness, the court will generally find that to be an acceptable defense for non-payment and will reduce the support pending the return to work. There is rarely a finding of contempt in those circumstances. Many parents who have legitimate reasons for not paying do not know to request a reduction and the arrearage grows until they file. If this is the situation, you may be better off letting the arrearage add up than to risk an earlier effective date for a reduction.
Finding Of Contempt Filing – Failure To Pay Child Support
If your ex is a job-hopper or otherwise tries to beat the system, then you should immediately file for a finding of contempt. A finding of contempt for failure to pay a child support order requires the court to award attorney fees and costs. The attorney fee award is almost always nominal; what has teeth is a suspended jail sentence if payments are not forthcoming. The second contempt finding will result in actual jail time and most parents are unwilling to risk that consequence. Contempt findings will also trigger Ohio to capture income tax refunds, lottery benefits and possible license suspensions.
Anne Harveys Bottom Line
Know that every county in Ohio has a child support enforcement agency that establishes and enforces child support orders. A parent with custody can apply with the agency for services without obtaining an attorney. Although there are limits to what the agencies can consider in issuing child support orders, the agencies’ services are invaluable. Your other alternative is to obtain a private attorney to pursue your rights to child support. This is no doubt expensive, and the process is still glacier-slow, but this is a far quicker and more effective method to obtain your money