Lis and the Single Girl: Child Support Remedies

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Single and fabulous? Well then this is the column for you!

Ever wish you had your own personal Carrie Bradshaw to answer your questions — not just about what to do if your boyfriend dumps you via text message — but serious issues that confront us? This special daily edition of “Lis on Law” will address topics that single women are faced and that everybody wonders about — but no one has time to figure out.

Between work, working out, dating and maintaining a social life, it’s tough to find time to do much else. So, read up and prepare to be fully armed for brunch this weekend with your friends with some super conversation topics! Your pals will be amazed!

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My ex-husband is a low-life piece of garbage! Proof: He’s way behind on child support payments. What can I do?

Yesterday I said some dads are great and want to help support their kids. However, with the good comes the bad ... and the deadbeat dads! The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 68 percent of child support cases had arrears owed in 2003. Fortunately, you do have remedies if your ex is skipping out on paying the bill.

Child support has traditionally been the man’s obligation after divorce, but now working women will be presumed to have a mutual obligation for support. So ladies, we are obligated for our fair share!

You can have your child support awards enforced in a variety of ways:

1. Civil Contempt: A dad who is subject to a valid order for child support, who has knowledge of the order and the ability to comply with the order, fails to comply with the terms of the order, is subject to contempt charges. So if a judge finds your ex in contempt, he can be fined or even imprisoned. However, you’ve got to prove that your ex has the ability to pay. That’s sometimes tough if your ex is good at hiding assets!

2. Judgment for Arrearages: In some states you can apply for a judgment against the obligated spouse for the payments of support. If your ex moves to another state his obligation to pay travels with him.

3. Attachment and Garnishment: This is the most popular remedy! In many states the court may order the attachment and sale of the property of the obligated spouse or enter orders for garnishment of salary. The court may even order the spouse’s employer to deduct wages and may order an assignment of those wages to you.

4. Security:Courts have the power to order that your ex's property (like a house or condo) be posted as security to make sure he pays child support. So, in theory, if he falls behind on support the court could seize and sell the property to fulfill child support obligations.

5. Federal Support Enforcement: In recent years, Congress has created a comprehensive set of laws to help states enforce support orders. The laws have created helpful devices such as a “Federal Parent Locator Service” in order to find an obligated parent, services to levy upon the debtor’s assets through the Treasury Department and diverting federal income tax refunds to the obligated spouse to satisfy outstanding support obligations.

In addition, many states have passed "deadbeat dad laws" that allow the Department of Motor Vehicles in the state to use its information to find the "deadbeat dad" and call him to account for his failure to pay. Some states even may suspend his license (drivers or business!) if he is far enough behind in support payments.

• Have a question for Lis? E-mail her and check back tomorrow for another edition of "Lis and the Single Girl."

• CLICK HERE for yesterday's entry!


• Administration for Children and Families

• Child Support

• Family Law, 2nd edition; Harris, & Teitelbaum (Aspen)

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The information contained in this Web site feature entitled “LIS ON LAW,” is provided as a service to visitors of, and does not constitute legal advice or establish an attorney client relationship. FOX NEWS NETWORK, LLC makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to this web site feature and its associated sites. Nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of your own counsel.

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Lis Wiehl joined FOX News Channel as a legal analyst in October 2001. She is currently a professor of law at the New York Law School. Wiehl received her undergraduate degree from Barnard College in 1983 and received her Master of Arts in Literature from the University of Queensland in 1985. In addition, she earned her Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School in 1987. Lis is also the author of The 51% Minority — How Women Still Are Not Equal and What You Can Do About It. (Watch the Video) To read the rest of Lis's bio, click here.