Child Support Bullets Part 9: Child Support Violations, and Post-Judgement Modifications

ParentsJeansKids-300x200All aspects of family law can be complicated.

Divorce, even when it’s decided upon mutually by a couple, is a complex process that involves separating two deeply connected lives. In many cases, divorce doesn’t just affect the spouses involved, but the children that came from the marriage too.

When children are involved in a family law case, the number of issues to be addressed increases significantly. Not only do you need to consider equitable distribution, and spousal maintenance, but you may need to consider child custody and child support too.

This bullet point guide on child support aims to address some of the issues that parties encounter during a divorce and child support case. In this segment, we’ll be looking at what happens when a child support order is violated, and when orders can be modified.

Child Support Orders and Violations

Divorces in New York start with a spouse issuing a notice to the other party which consists of a summons, a copy of the divorce complaint, and information describing the “lawsuit”.  A child support case in family court is typically started with a Summons and Petition.

  • Once a divorce or child support case goes to court, the authorities of the case, such as a support magistrate or judge, will be responsible for determining the outcome. These professionals will consider various factors to decide whether child support should be awarded and how much money should be awarded to the custodial parent. Your Nassau County child custody lawyers can help you to learn the child support guidelines.
  • If a party ordered to pay child support does not pay the amount owed, it’s possible to take this issue to court to enforce the order that was given. People who do not pay child support according to the orders given may end up in arrears.
  • An order to pay child support as part of a divorce judgement can be enforced by the delivery of a contempt or violation petition to the family court or to Supreme Court following the entry of a divorce judgement. If exclusive jurisdiction wasn’t reserved by the Supreme Court, then the Family or Supreme Court could both address the violation or contempt application.
  • Most contempt motions are brought by an Order to Show Cause in the Supreme Court. The other side in the case must appear in court to prove why an order shouldn’t be issued in punishment of the person who refuses to pay child support.
  • In family court, less paperwork is often required. Petitions detailing the violation can be submitted by a client and their attorney. The court will then request the respondent to appear in court and determine whether they have violated the court order.
  • For an attorney such as myself who may be defending someone who has been accused of wilfully violating a support order, the task is to show that this violation was not wilful or even that there is not a violation at all. The financial ability to pay a support amount is usually a big issue to address in hearing contempt or violation cases. For instance, a loss of employment, due to no fault of the payor that then made diligent efforts to try and get replacement employment, to no avail, could make it impossible for the individual to pay the amount owed.

Addressing Issues with Support Orders

If a person ordered to pay child support to the other parent or a previous spouse is not able to do so, or refuses to follow the order, this is a serious matter. A hearing may be necessary in these cases. If the court finds that there is a wilful violation of the order, the court will usually issue a money judgement requesting the unpaid support among other retributions. An income deduction order may also be made which means that the money is removed directly from the person’s income.

  • In some cases, the court can send a party to take part in work activities and can suspend the individual’s professional and driving licenses until payment is made. In cases of wilful violation, the court may also order up to 6 months in prison.
  • If there is a modification request filed, then it may be determined that adjustments need to be made to the court order. Modifications may be necessary in cases where there is a significant change to the amount of money a person must contribute to child support.
  • The courts of New York dictate that there must be a significant change in circumstances present to modify the terms of a child support order and other support requests after divorce. Requests to modify these orders will only be considered if the change of circumstances is significant enough or usually if three or more years has elapsed since the last order or income has change by 15% or more for either party.
  • In the case of the paying party losing their job, or experiencing significant change to their income, it may be important to take the issue back to court to reconsider what is fair to be requested from the party in this case. Though the courts of New York will always put the best interests of the children first in child support cases, they also strive to avoid undue hardship on either party involved.
  • If a change is made to the child support order based on a person’s income, and that individual’s income changes again in the future, the opposing party can also request a modification to the new child support order. For instance, if the income of the other party returned to normal after a couple of years, the spouse with custody of the child may once again need to raise the issue of support with the courts.

If you have any questions about the issues raised above, you can find additional support and information on the blogs published within this website. If you would like to discuss your own family law or child support case, you can contact me, Mr. Shapiro through my online contact form, or call my office over the phone to schedule a time. Initial consultations are available where for up to 30 minutes are free.

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