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!

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

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

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

  3. 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.

  4. 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 !

  5. 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?

  6. 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.

  7. 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?

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