Few things are more distressing for a parent than struggling to support their child financially. Unfortunately, this is a reality for many divorced parents throughout New York State. A child support order was included in the terms of the divorce, but their former spouse is chronically late or even refuses to pay at all, saying that they aren’t working right now and can’t afford it.
This is a disheartening situation, but you are not without resources. If your former spouse doesn’t pay, then you can file a violation petition with the local family court. (If you were married, the case will also come under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.) A hearing will then be held to determine whether or not their noncompliance with the child support order is willful.
New York law is tough on so-called “deadbeat” parents. It actually presumes that failure to pay child support is a willful act, placing the burden on the payor to prove that they are genuinely unable to make the necessary payments. If they can’t, then you will very likely get a judgment for any support arrears.
Some negligent parents refuse to comply with such judgments. If that happens in your case, then the family court judge can order penalties that include:
- Having an order of contempt issued
- Awarding your legal fees being paid by the deadbeat parent
- Garnishments of wages or unemployment benefits
- Seizing their income tax returns
- Attaching windfalls such as lottery winnings or personal injury awards
- Loss of their driver’s license
- Loss of business and professional licenses
- Probation or incarceration for up to six months
The New York Child Support Collection Unit
If you have been receiving the support payments through the New York State Child Support Collection Unit, they can help you collect arrears by:
- Arranging for your former spouse’s employer to deduct money from their wages or, if they are unemployed, automatic deductions from their Unemployment Insurance Benefits payments
- Intercepting state and federal income tax refunds
- Intercepting lottery winnings
- Informing the major credit reporting agencies about the delinquencies, making it hard for your former spouse to receive any form of credit
- Seizing financial assets such as bank accounts
- Filing a lien against personal property
- Suspension of the person’s New York State driver’s license
- Making it impossible for them to get a new passport or renew an existing one
- Providing the person’s name to the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, which can use tax collection strategies to collect the arrears
Having to chase someone for support money they are obligated to pay is stressful, but also necessary. A New York family law attorney can advise you on the best course of action and guide you through the process of filing the violation petition. While you can’t stop someone from trying to deprive their child of necessary financial assistance, you can take steps to collect it and deter future problems. Jayson Lutzky is a Bronx, NY lawyer who regularly appears in family court in New York City. He has over 35 years of legal experience and offers free in-office initial consultations. Call 718-329-9500 to set up an appointment or visit www.MyNewYorkCityLawyer.com to learn more.