Child Support Notice? Don’t Panic; Prepare Yourself
The letter comes in the mail and you freak out. You’ve been hit with a notice that a child support case has been filed by your ex-girlfriend, ex-wife, or that woman you slept with during a one-night stand a year ago. No matter who the woman is, things didn’t work out for some reason but you have a child together (for the purposes of this article, the assumption that you are the father will be applicable) and you have a legal obligation to pay child support. Don’t freak out; prepare yourself. If you don’t prepare yourself, you could face severe penalties, including jail time.
Paraphrasing Section 228 of Title 18, United States Code: an individual is subject to federal prosecution if they willfully fail to pay child support that has been ordered by a court for a child who lives in another state, or if the payment is past due for longer than one year or exceeds the amount of $5,000. A violation of this law is a criminal misdemeanor and convicted offender face fines and up to six months in prison.
If the child support payment is overdue for longer than two years, or the amount exceeds $10,000, the violation is a criminal felony, and convicted offenders face fines and up to two years in prison.
Notably, other than in the specific circumstances aforementioned, child support enforcement issues are handled by state and local authorities, and not by the federal government. Furthermore, all child support enforcement matters must be addressed at the local or state level before concerns can be raised at the federal level.
I write this article specifically for my fellas because they are more likely to pay child support than women. In most situations, men are ordered to pay child support because: 1) The woman exercises more time-sharing (time-sharing is number of nights child sleeps/stays/resides at a parent’s house in a given year) with the minor child(ren); 2) The man makes more money than the woman; 3) A combination of #1 and #2; or 4) Things didn’t go well for the man at his child support hearing. While income may not be able to be adjusted, men do have a say in time-sharing and how things go at their hearing.
When calculating time-sharing, the number of overnight visits spent with one’s child(ren) is a key factor analyzed by the State Department of Revenues and by the State Family Law Courts. This is an issue which stumps many men. Either they exercise the ever-so-common every-other-weekend time-sharing or they have no formal agreement with their child’s or children’s mother. Men you have every right to be in your child’s or children’s lives 50% of the time and it is key to strive for 50% time-sharing via a formal agreement or via an order by a judge, prior to a final child support hearing. I personally have been hired numerous times right before a child support hearing when a male client of mine has informed me that he has an “informal agreement” regarding time sharing. Upon hearing this, if I’m unable to reschedule the hearing to properly prepare for the case, I inform my client that we may likely have an uphill battle upon us. Often when I arrive at the child support hearing, the opposing party (his child’s or children’s mother) will flat out lie and say the parties have “no agreement.” Without substantive evidence to validate a man’s time-sharing (e.g., specifically dated photos proving your child(ren) reside with you, specifically dated videos of you with your child(ren), text messages regarding you exchanging your child(ren) with their mother, witnesses who can testify to your time sharing), a judge or hearing officer may likely believe the testimony of the opposing party and my client may get no credit for their time-sharing.
Therefore, do all you can to establish valid time-sharing prior to your final child support hearing. In part 2, I will address other aspects of child support hearings, such as how to receive credit for previous child support payments and how to avoid the “injunction” trap.