What Can I Do If My Ex-Husband Won’t Pay Child Support?

ChildrenMonthly 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!

21 thoughts on “What Can I Do If My Ex-Husband Won’t Pay Child Support?”

  1. I have a custody arrangement in place and court ordered child support. He is supposed to have our daughter one week on and one week off during the summer. He sent me a request yesterday telling me that he is going to miss his visitation this week because he has to work. I work every day and I pay for a babysitter when I have to. Now I am paying for a babysitter during his visits because of his job. Normally, I would be willing to be flexible with him, but I have not received court ordered child support in an year. Do I have any legal recourse?

    1. I’m sorry, but I am not an attorney and I don’t know the laws of your state. But if you are asking if you have legal recourse to collect court ordered child support, yes, absolutely, and you should take steps to do so right away. If you are asking whether you can go after him for babysitting fees, it may not be worth it to do so through the legal system given the costs of going to court. But I do suggest that you make a reasonable request for reimbursement from him due to you accommodating his change in schedules. If you leave all the “you always..” and “you never…” and the like out of your conversation with him, you may be able to reach an agreement that works for both of you.

  2. So my husband and I agreed to get a divorce. However he wants me to file for a joint divorce AND to basically waive my right to any financial supports and division of his 401k. We don’t have a house but we have 3 small kids. I don’t mind sharing custody with him ( though I would rather have them full time) since I don’t have a place of my own. But I can’t help feeling I’m going to get screwed I file for joint divorce and let him go free and clear. He is from a well to do family and he’s about to start his own business. I don’t really want his money if I don’t need it. I had a good job but due to the pandemic I’m barely living off my unemployment. I want him to help me and my girls get our place but he said he’s not gonna give me a dime. I really want to divorce him but I feel like if I do what he asked I’d regret it later. I can’t afford a lawyer and he doesn’t want to help me with that either. Please help.

    1. Okay, your husband wants to get a divorce and keep everything. He’s made that clear. So what? You are entitled to your share of the marital property, your children are entitled to child support, and if you need it you are entitled to alimony. Why would you want to walk away with nothing? Find an attorney who is willing to take on your case — even though you don’t have control of the money, attorneys know that judges will order your spouse to release funds to you so that you can retain an attorney, so they will get paid.

  3. My ex husband hasn’t paid much in this past years. He is a veteran who refuses to work a real job. I don’t know if he file taxes. But he claims he does not have employment income.
    He pays $400 monthly but he owes a purge of $7000. NYS contacted PA Child Support and I received an order stating me (plaintiff) vs defendant are to be in contempt court next month, December.

    I called PA Court to get more information; they said if he cannot pay the purge he will be arrested. If I don’t want him arrested I would have to cancel child support.

    I don’t know what to do – I don’t want my teenage son to hate me because his father is in jail. But I do need support.

    What should I do? Can’t they force him to work! Can’t they Garnish his veterans wages?

  4. My ex husband hasn’t paid much in this past year. He refuses to work a real job, and works under the table very little. He does not file taxes because he does not have employment income as well.

    We are not on speaking terms. I’ve asked many lawyers what I should do, and they all said it would be a waste of money to fight it. He is almost 10,000 behind from hardly ever paying. He doesn’t even owe that much! Child support services are a joke and won’t do anything. Where is the justice for our children and myself? What more can be done? He already has his license taken away and has been legally Charged with misdemeanors for driving without a license and he does not care. He always gets a slap on the wrist he always gets away with everything. How is it that he gets away with not paying child support?

  5. My ex and I got separated and i am asking him to give me atleast little help for our kids and he said he dont have money. Ever since he didnt give me any . Because I worked 3 jobs and not enough sleep. And now his been telling me, if I file for child support, i will pay husband alimony. Because I earn more than my ex because I have 3 jobs but all of those are per diem. I dont have a fulltime job, I picked more days from my work and dont enough sleep. But now shelter in place my income is not the same. What should I do, to get my ex husband’s support without paying alimony to him?

    1. To get child support orders, you will need to file a petition with the court for it. That does not trigger alimony, though at some point he may file for alimony – it isn’t tied to child support. And just because you work harder and earn more than he does, doesn’t mean he’ll get alimony.

  6. Catherine Bedingfield

    My ex husband hasn’t paid child support in 4 months. I have already taken him to court once and a court order was granted stating he has to pay child support including back owed child support plus my legal fees. I cannot afford to hire another lawyer and go through that again. We need that money. What can I do?

  7. Hi , I moved out to Spain with my husband & 2 children ,unfortunately we’ve split up & he won’t pay any payments for the children ,hes move back to UK as he’s a long distance lorry driver ,he comes out to see his kids & stays with a friend , I’ve got a lawer through legal aid but they can’t serve papers as he doesn’t live here, is there anything I can do to enforce it !

  8. How can I find help ……..
    Is it possible the child support agency/maintenance service can’t get my ex husband to pay maintenance for (3 kids) more than 7 years because he is self employed.
    can I apply to a court order ? A family lawyer said that, the court wouldn’t consider maintenance as maintenance should be dealt with by the child support agency. I’m really frustrated having to deal with 3 kids on my own. Given the fact that he got a decent job.

  9. Pingback: Do I Have to Claim Child Support Income on My Taxes? | The Next Chapter

  10. How about deadbeats pay child support? I will depend on that money the same way my egg depended on that sperm. Unbelievable!

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