Child support is a regular payment made by one spouse for the care and well-being of a child or children. See Battersby v. Battersby, 218 Conn. 467, 473, 590 A.2d 429 (1991). Unlike alimony, which does not have a set formula by which it is calculated, the amount of the payment is determined pursuant to the Connecticut Child Support Guidelines. Once it is determined that there is a child support obligation owed, and the amount of that obligation is calculated, the court must approve the child support amount, and enter the payment as a court order in order for it to be a legally enforceable obligation. Having a legally enforceable court order is important. If you don’t have an approved child support order in place, you will have to get one by filing a motion – or a petition – in a Connecticut court. Child support orders are also modifiable – but only by the court! – more on this later (if you have questions now, we suggest you consult our website or call 203-298-4658 to set up a consultation). If you are voluntarily paying child support for a child, you may also want to consider consulting with an attorney to determine whether you should file a motion for determination of your child support obligation. If you are paying or receiving child support, keep good records. For instance:
- Don’t pay with cash – if you do, get a signed and dated receipt of payment. However, it is always better to pay with checks so that you can request copies of cancelled checks from your bank.
- In the memo line on the checks, list the date or week that the child support payment is for.
- Always deposit child support payments into your bank account so that you can trace receipt of payments
- Periodically (we generally suggest every month, but at least every quarter) reconcile your payment or receipt of child support payments with your bank statements to ensure that you have not inadvertently failed to account for a week.
Once you have a legally enforceable order, you have a route for recourse should the other parent fail to pay. In case of non-payment of child support, or default, you can file a motion with the court seeking to hold the payor-parent in contempt. If the court finds that there was a willful disobedience of a court order, the court may hold the other parent in contempt, which could involve fines and even jail time. The judge can also withhold the income of the noncustodial parent and take various other steps to make sure that all arrears are cleared, including placing liens on property owned by the payor-parent. In some – not all – cases, the CT family laws even allow for the federal and state tax returns to be intercepted, for past-due amounts to be reported to consumer credit reporting agencies, and for licenses to be suspended (including driver’s, professional, occupational, or recreational licenses). However, because he actual rights of recourse, ways of enforcing child support payments, and available remedies vary case-by-case, you should consult with a knowledgeable CT divorce or family law attorney to discuss the facts specific to your case and develop a plan. So, a few take-away points from this article:
- It is extremely important that you have a legally enforceable court order for payment of child support. This protects both the parent who is paying child support, and the parent who is receiving child support.
- Keep good records of the payment and receipt of child support.
- If a payment is missed, consult with a knowledgeable CT family law attorney to determine your rights.