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Dealing with an ex-spouse's failure to pay child support

When child support is ordered as part of a divorce settlement, it's sometimes impossible to know if the payments will actually be made. Custodial parents in Illinois and all around the U.S. deserve to receive child support payments in order to properly care for their children after a divorce. However, ex-spouses often struggle to make child support payments. Sudden changes in one's life, such as a medical emergency or unemployment, can make it very difficult to stay abreast of monthly payments. In other cases, ex-spouses may simply be determined to not make the payments, because they believe the situation is unfair.

Unpaid child support has become such a problem that the Office of Child Support Enforcement reported back payments of $108 billion in 2009. People failing to pay child support can eventually be put in jail, but that will still not aid the custodial parents monetarily. Luckily, there are some strategies that can be used when an ex-spouse is continually missing their payments.

The first approach involves keeping the non-custodial parent involved in the children's lives. When an ex-spouse is not making payments, your first instinct may be to "punish" them by refusing to let them visit with the children. However, more visitation time may lead to a non-custodial parent feeling more invested in the child's life and may make them more willing to pay child support.

Another strategy involves keeping child support payments out of your budget. If there's any question about whether or not an ex-spouse will pay, it's best to not rely on the payment in any way. Make sure that you can make ends meet without the child support.

It's also possible to ask your ex to make partial payments. If they really can't make the monthly amount, it's better to get something rather than nothing. Payment amounts can always be adjusted later if your ex starts getting a higher income.

Finally, if a non-custodial parent hasn't made any effort with their child support, you can file a motion in court. While it's usually best to work out these types of conflicts through direct communication, an attorney and the court system can be great allies if enough time has passed without a payment. A court can help you get paid through methods such as wage garnishment.

money.usnews.com, "What to Do When Your Ex Won't (or Can't) Pay Child Support" Geoff Williams, Nov. 20, 2013

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