Family Law Conundrum How Do We Solve Child Support


Georgia readers may be interested in learning that a Connecticut newspaper columnist has suggested that her state follow Georgia's lead in addressing certain family law issues surrounding child support. Divorce often spawns ongoing issues that survive the final decree, including child custody and support disagreements. Of particular interest to the columnist was her state's inability to successfully collect back child support payments.

She gave no slack to those obligated for the country's economic malaise. But she made some interesting observations. The state currently has more than $1.5 billion outstanding in uncollected support arrears. She claims the legal process is a charade with the same people appearing before the court over and over again. One side pleads for payment while the other side pleads for poverty.

She believes Connecticut should follow the collection procedures used in Illinois, Georgia, Tennessee and Ohio. Specifically, she asks why Connecticut does not suspend the driver's licenses of those owing money to force payment. Indeed, she cites one Georgia example, where a father was a self-employed painter. He was said to be repeatedly behind in his support payments until he learned during a traffic stop that his driver's license was suspended. Faced with the prospect of not being able to drive to work, the man was said to pay his $8,000 arrears the next day. In this instance, it wasn't because the man couldn't pay the support; he simply didn't want to pay it. Ultimately, someone has to come up with the money, even if it isn't the child's parents -- often being taxpayers.

It turns out Connecticut does have a similar law, but it can only be enforced through the courts and not state run agencies like the department of motor vehicles or social services. It is rarely used because the threat of jail is more immediate than a driver's license suspension, which apparently has a 30 day stay before it can become effective. So what should be done?

While the columnist groups all persons owing back child support together, the fact is some have fallen behind because they do not have the money, and the disparity creates a perplexing family law conundrum. Those owed back child support have a right to collect and sometimes need legal assistance in doing so. Those, despite the best intentions, who are legitimately behind on their child support need help too. And the law permits relief by way of a modification petition due to a substantial change in circumstances.

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