Challenges of Child Support: Which Party Is the Custodial Parent?
Interviewer: What are some of the more difficult aspects about child support in regards to your perspective? What are some of the challenges?
Anitha Johnson: I would say in some cases it is determining which party is the custodial parent. Sometimes that can be an argument, as to who is the actual custodial parent. Another thing that could be challenging is determining the income.
Determining Actual Income Can Be Difficult If a Parent Is Self-Employed
Some people are self-employed, sometimes people do not reveal their income, so we have to subpoena the records, do a detailed investigation on how much they actually earn. Determining the income can be a challenge sometimes.
With investigation and hard work you can get the party’s income, sometimes with limitations. If someone is self-employed it’s a lot more work to determine their income. Sometimes you can determine their income based on their bank accounts, how much are they depositing, or based on their expenses. If they’re claiming they only earn 20,000 a year but they have a mortgage that’s more than 20,000, the court can determine their income just by their lifestyle.
Interviewer: How long overall do you think the process of determining child support as a whole takes? How long could it potentially take just for the child support alone?
Anitha Johnson: It’s just on a case-by-case basis. It depends on how quickly you have the documents necessary.
What Can Be Done If the Paying Party Is Not Meeting the Child Support Obligations?
Interviewer: What happens if the parent doesn’t pay child support or if they miss their payments?
The Party That Is Owed Payments Can File for Contempt Plus Any Incurred Fees
Anitha Johnson: Typically if one payment or a few payments are missed nothing happens. But after several payments are missed a party has the right to file for contempt. Contempt just means that the person has violated a court order.
They are now subject to incarceration and payment of fees the person incurred in having to file the contempt, and in having to hire an attorney to file a contempt. A contempt motion is just a motion asking the court to find that the party is in contempt because they are purposely violating a court order.
Inability to Meet the Child Support Payments
I would go further to say that the main defense for contempt is that you don’t have the ability to pay. Say the person lost their job or they’re working part time. Their expenses are more than what they earn then the court does not have the authority to put someone in prison unless they determine that the person had the ability to pay but still failed to pay.
Parents of Adopted Children Have the Same Legal Obligations toward Them as They Would for Biological Children
Interviewer: How does child support work for foster parents or parents who have adopted a child?
Anitha Johnson: Once a parent adopts the child, that parent is completely responsible for the child. That parent has the same obligations as they would to their own biological child. If they adopt a child, then the biological parents no longer have any obligation for child support.
When you adopt a child, both parties even when they split up, have an obligation to legally take care of that child. If you adopt a child you can potentially end up paying child support for that child if you separate from the other party and they’re the party who is taking care of the child. Then they can come after you for payment of child support.