There are some coparenting situations where child support is a non-issue. If the parents have a true 50/50 custody time split and make roughly the same income, the courts may decide that there’s no need for a child support order. Similarily, some people choose to forego financial support as part of their divorce agreement. However, if you do count on child support as part of your monthly income, not receiving payments can create a real financial hardship.
Unless there’s a specific short-term issue that’s keeping your ex from making payments, you’ll likely need to get the professionals involve in collecting back support. Here’s what you need to know.
Get an Official Child Support Order
While this may seem obvious, it’s not unusual for coparents to have an informal child support arrangement. This is most common in situations where the divorce is in process, the parents were never married, or the divorce/dissolution was very amicable. While this situation works for some, it’s always best to have an official court order to fall back on, and if you’re dealing with unpaid child support, it’s a must before you can take any action for back payments.
Ensure the Child Support Order Is Accurate and Up to Date
Child support is handled on a state by state basis, and each state has its own guidelines for what factors go into the calculations and how child support is determined. In most cases, it will be dependent on the income (and possibly earning potential) or both parents and any other outstanding factors. These could be child care costs or something like above-average medical expenses for a child with a chronic condition. However, these factors may change as the child gets older or the parents get new jobs. If you or your coparent has experienced a significant change in financial circumstances, it’s important to have your child support order updated before seeking back payments — especially if the unpaid child support is due to a financial hardship.
Contact Your Local Child Support Enforcement Agency
The Child Support Enforcement Agency is responsible for ensuring that child support orders are executed. It should be your first contact if you stop receiving your payments. The case worker can let you know how long you have to go without a payment before enforcement action is taken (this is usually 1-3 months) and what the next steps are. Keep in mind, however, that the case worker will likely not be able to tell you why you’re not receiving payments or give you any personal information about your ex’s job or financial situation.
Keep Up Open and Positive Communication
It’s frustrating when you’re counting on money, and it doesn’t come in. But it’s important to keep the child support and the visitation and custody matters separate. If your ex stops paying support, that doesn’t mean you can withhold visitation or try other punitive measures to get them to pay. And really, this can just backfire even more and turn what was a peaceful coparenting arrangement into a war zone. Using the expense tracking and messaging tools on 2houses gives you an easy way to keep communication factual, professional and focused on the children.
Whether your ex just missed their first payment or you’re owed thousands in unpaid child support, it’s important to continue to abide by the current court order and go through the proper legal channels to seek back payments.