What Can I Do If My Ex-Husband Won’t Pay Child Support?December 1, 2016 • By Candace Bahr and Ginita Wall, CPA, CFP®
Monthly child support payments can be a financial life saver after a divorce, especially if you earn far less than your husband. After a divorce, you will need to learn how to make do on a single income while raising children who seem always to be emptying your refrigerator, growing out of their clothes, and needing money for uniforms, field trips, school supplies, and more!
If you rely on child support payments to make ends meet, it can be devastating if your ex suddenly decides to close his check book out of spite, greed, or because he claims that he is broke. What are your options, and how can you get the payments your children deserve?
Start with a Conversation
Before you spend your hard-earned money on a lawyer and drag your ex into court, start with a conversation. Maybe there are extraneous circumstances that you don’t know about. Perhaps, for example, your ex lost his job, didn’t earn an expected bonus, or is dealing with an expensive health issue. It could be that your ex-husband very much wants to financially support his children, but he just can’t make the payments at this particular time.
If this is the case, you may want to consider whether the two of you can come to some sort of agreement. Perhaps you can ask for a lower payment until your ex gets back on his feet. This isn’t ideal, but some money is better than nothing at all.
Another option is to waive child support payments for a specific amount of time with the understanding that your ex will make higher payments at the end of the grace period until the full amount is paid off.
This may give your ex the time he needs to find a new job and address a short-term cash crunch.
Go the Legal Route
If you are not on speaking terms with your ex, or if he simply refuses to make child support payments despite an ability to pay, you may need to get the law involved. If you haven’t received payments for six months or more, you can go to court and ask that the child support be enforced.
The courts have the power to garnish your spouse’s wages, withhold his tax refunds, suspend his professional license, and even throw him in jail. Incarceration is usually a last resort, since your ex’s prison wages won’t really cover what he owes you.
Don’t Depend on Child Support
Unfortunately, if your ex-spouse is a deadbeat, you may have to come to terms with the fact that you cannot expect child support payments each month. You aren’t alone. The Office of Child Support Enforcement found that in 2009, parents were owed $108 billion in child support back payments.
Perhaps the best option for you is to focus on how you can cover all of your expenses without depending on child support. (Here’s how you can Get Your Financial Life in Order this Year.) If the check comes, then that’s great! That money can help boost your college savings account or buy a few more groceries for the family.
In the meantime, put yourself into a situation where you don’t desperately need the child support payment each month. That may mean working with a financial advisor after your divorce to help you figure out a new budget for your post-divorce life.
If you are struggling to find financial security after divorce, we invite you to join one of our local Money Clubs. If you can’t find one in your area, consider starting your own!