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My Ex-Husband Stopped Paying Child Support. What can I do?

My husband and I divorced five years ago. We have two daughters, who are 14 and 16, and a son, who’s 20. I have full custody. For the first three years, my ex-husband paid child support. But two years ago, he stopped paying support. I need that money to take care of my children. Is there anything I can do?

Yes. Your husband is legally obligated to pay the amount of support the court ordered. He owes back child support for the two years and continued support for your daughters. In most cases, his obligation ends when the children turn 18 or graduate from high school, but there are some exceptions to that basic rule that an experienced family law attorney will explain if your situation is one of the exceptions. Your ex-husband must make up any amount he failed to pay for your son when he was still a minor and/or was still in high school.

You should consult a family lawyer as soon as possible. The older your son gets, the harder it will be to recover the back support. Once he’s over 23, it may be impossible. A court order for back support will include interest, attorney fees and any other costs associated with recovering what you’re owed. To make sure your ex-husband pays, the Office of Child Support Enforcement can withhold from his paycheck or tax refunds and put that money toward his child support debt. If he’s receiving unemployment or workers’ compensation, those payments can also be withheld.

Now that their father is responsible for two minor children instead of three, the support order will have to reflect that. In most cases, you will need a new court order for support for your two daughters. When a child is aged out, the support amount has to be adjusted and it is not evenly proportional. For example, if the amount for three children was $1,000, the amount for two children is NOT 2/3 of $1,000. The court will recalculate the child support payment for two children, based on his current income.

You don’t say why he stopped paying child support. If his income dropped, or he is unemployed, the court may take that into consideration when determining his financial responsibility for your daughters. However, his current income won’t affect what he owes you in back child support.

The back support that’s owed, combined with the fact that your support order covered three minor children when now there are two, complicates your situation. I urge you not to put off contacting a family law attorney.