When parents divorce, it is often the case that one parent maintains custody of the children while the other is required to pay for "child support." Child support is ordered by a court and must be paid unless alternative arrangements have been agreed upon.
According to the FindLaw web site, "Those who are delinquent and owe back child support are often called "deadbeat parents," a term that also is often used in the titles of state laws meant to ensure the timely payment of child support."
Deadbeat parents are required, under the Child Support Enforcement Act of 1984, to pay child support. If they fail to do so, they are subject to penalties that could include jail time. Of course, it's impossible for a jailed person to earn money to pay for childcare, so other penalties are more common. These may include, for example:
- Denial of a passport
- Loss of driver's license
- Garnishment of wages
- Liens against vehicles or real estate
- Freezing bank accounts
Retroactive Child Support
When filing for child support, a custodial parent may also request retroactive support. These are payments made to support the needs of the child (and in some cases the mother) between the time when the couple files for divorce and the point at which a judge actually mandates child support payments. This period can, of course, be both lengthy and expensive depending on the situation. The claim for retroactive support must be supported by a list of expenses, on behalf of the child.
To establish a claim in child support proceedings for back child support payments, a custodial parent should be prepared to:
- Present proof that the non-custodial parent failed to support the child.
- Present evidence that the custodial parent attempted to collect child support payments from the non-custodial parent.
- If the non-custodial parent is the father, present proof that the father was aware of his probable paternity.
Before mandating retroactive child support, a court will consider the factors mentioned above, as well as other considerations, such as whether or not the non-custodial parent is financially able to pay back child support. Parents should check the laws of their specific states for more information on retroactive child support payments.
Non-Financial Options for Paying Child Support
A parent may counter a claim for back child support payments by presenting proof of support in the way of receipts for clothing, food, and other expenses. Often a parent who has not or could not provide monetary payments may provide other means of support such as regular child care. A court will consider alternative forms of support when money is not readily available for non-custodial parents.
Non-custodial parents should maintain detailed records, about child support provided. If receipts are unavailable, it's helpful to the court if parents can present communication records or perhaps a witness that can attest to the fact that the non-custodial parent has provided support for a child.