Guest Author - Cynthia Parker
I find myself in a situation which I have discussed often with many of you – in need of child support enforcement. Oddly enough, I never realized I would have the opportunity to put my research to work for myself. First, a bit of history…
In my divorce decree, an amount for child support and a method of payment (directly to me) were established. However, it did not take long before their father was making only partial payments, and soon thereafter, no payments. I hired an attorney to take the case back to court and the judge ordered that he pay his payments through the court, allowing them to track them. He did this, for a short period of time. Then we were back in court for Round 3. At this time, the judge ordered that his wages be garnished to pay his child support, both current and arrears. The entire process took over a year, but for the next five years I did not worry at all about child support.
About two years ago, I began receiving partial payments again. When I contacted the court, they informed me that they did believe that his wages were still being garnished. (I have since found out that his wages were not being garnished during this time; he was making payments directly to the court.) Sometimes the payments would be about half of the ordered amount; sometimes they would be no more than $20. In March of 2005, the payments stopped completely.
I contacted the court again, and the representative assigned to my case was surprised that the case had not been assigned to be brought before the judge. She processed the appropriate paperwork and had our case put on the court docket. She told me that he would be served with a subpoena to appear in court and that I would receive a letter letting informing me of the court date. When I received my letter, I naturally assumed that he had been served.
My youngest daughter and I appeared at family court on the appointed date and waited patiently for court to commence. When we spoke with the clerk of court, she informed us that we should wait to see if my ex-husband showed up before we signed in. We waited – for almost two hours – and he never arrived. When I asked what the next step would be, I was told that I should call back the following day to see if he had been served, and if so, if a bench warrant was issued for his arrest for failure to appear. I told her that I had received a letter informing me of the court date and asked if that did not mean he had been served. She quickly informed me that it did not. (Shatter my delusions.)
When I called the following day, I was told that indeed he had not been served, they had been informed that he did not live at the last known address any longer, and that without an updated address there was nothing else they could do. It was suggested to me that I contact the Department of Social Services, Child Support Enforcement Division, to open a case and have them begin the “search” for my ex-husband. My alternatives were to hire a private company to track him down and enforce support for a fee. (As stated in a previous article on various child support enforcement agencies, these fees can range from reasonable to exorbitant and are taken from the child support collected.)
So what am I doing? Good question.
First, I found that there were several problems within the system itself that concern me. Certain information should be fairly easy to track and I feel should be considered “critical” when maintaining information on child support cases that are handled through the family court system. For example, from where are payments received? It should be obvious whether a payment comes from an employer or an individual. This should be noted on the record, especially if the court has ordered that the payments be made through wage withholding. If the payments begin to come from the individual, this should be a “red flag” that there is a possible issue on the horizon. (i.e., the individual is not working for the same company; there has been a reduction in their hours, etc.) Also to be “red flagged” should be payments that are not for the indicated amount.
Also, it should be fairly easy to maintain a file of those individuals who the court is unable to serve for a particular court date. Instead of sending out a letter informing the custodial parent of the court date, they could send them a form letter letting them know that the noncustodial parent could not be served, along with suggestions for the next action(s) that should be taken.
I am contacting the appropriate Family Court departments to suggest such actions and am contacting a local single parents’ organization to ask for their support via letters, petition signatures, etc. I will let you know how this goes…
As for how I am going about getting my child support order enforced, I am contacting the Department of Social Services, Child Support Enforcement Division, to see how effective the process will be. I am going to give this route a chance first because, like most single parents who aren’t receiving child support, money – or the lack thereof – is an issue.
Throughout the process, I will use my experiences to test the research I have done for articles for all of you and to hopefully find better, easier, more effective solutions for us all! Wish me luck!