Can I Get My Child Support Arrears Dismissed?
Parents are legally required to support their children, even if they do not live with the child in question. If one parent feels their co-parent is not doing a great job of financially supporting their child, they can file for child support. If child support is granted, the other parent is then required to provide specific amounts of money to the child on a monthly or weekly basis.
If child support payments are not made regularly according to the schedule set forth by the judge, there can be consequences. These consequences may be legal or financial. For example, individuals who do not pay their child support are often required to make payments on the backlog of child support payments that are due. These are called child support arrears.
Many parents are surprised to find out that they still need to pay their child support arrears even after their children have passed the legal age. Some wonder whether it is possible to have child support arrears dismissed in court. Here is more information about child support arrears and whether they can be dismissed.
What are child support arrears?
When parents fall behind on their child support payments, the payments go into arrears. This does not mean the parent can stop making payments, but sometimes people are unable to meet the child support order for whatever reason. However, these back payments will continue to accrue.
Can child support arrears be collected without an order?
If you and your co-parent do not have a formal court-ordered child support agreement, it may not be legally enforceable. Therefore, if you missed payments and want to dismiss your child support arrears, it may be possible. State laws generally mandate that judges must approve an agreement through the courts before it can be enforced legally. However, only your family law attorney can determine this for certain.
What is retroactive child support?
Some people confuse retroactive child support for arrears. In reality, however, retroactive child support orders parents to pay a certain amount of money to compensate for a period where there was no child support order in place. There are limits to how far into the past retroactive child support orders can go, and there are also criteria that must be met to claim retroactive child support. For example, if you cannot establish paternity right away, or if the court took a long time to hear the case, a parent may be entitled to retroactive payments.
Because retroactive child support is additional money paid to cover times when an order was not yet active, it is not the same as child support arrears. If you miss payments on retroactive child support, then those missed payments would also accrue as arrears.
How are child support arrears enforced?
Parents can have a child support order enforced by working with the courts or a child support agency. This often requires assistance from a lawyer who will represent them throughout court proceedings.
By going to court, parents stand to recover the costs of their legal fees as well as child support arrears and interest that is due. Parents who refuse to pay after the judgment is awarded can be held in contempt of court and prosecuted criminally.
What if a parent cannot afford to pay child support arrears?
Not having the money to pay your child support debts is not a good excuse to not be able to support your child. You may be able to reach out to the child’s other parent to work out a plan in good faith, but they are not obligated to accept less than what you have been ordered to pay. In many cases, co-parents set up a payment agreement where the person who owes arrears can pay off their responsibility over time.
If you are not aware of how much child support is overdue, work with your nearest child support agency to get the right numbers. Then, figure out an appropriate payment plan and start making payments as soon as possible.
Can I have my Tennessee child support arrears dismissed?
In general, you are not able to have arrears dismissed in Tennessee, though it is possible to request a modification of the support order. By doing so, you can change the amount of child support you are ordered to pay by the courts. Rarely does this result in a complete dismissal of arrears, but it may lower the amount of child support due in the future.
Usually, these modifications are only offered when someone has experienced a large-scale change to their circumstances in the time since the child support order was filed. For example, if the parent who is paying child support gets laid off, the court may consider this a good reason to have child support obligations decreased.
However, it is important to note that someone cannot have their child support obligations reduced because they simply do not want to pay it. If someone decides to leave their work voluntarily just so they do not need to make the full child support payments, the judge will likely see through that plan and not modify the terms of the child support order. Therefore, it makes sense to be completely honest and pay your child support as requested. Not doing so can cause difficulties and diminish the judge’s trust in you. It will also negatively affect your child, who should be your first and only priority in this situation.
Paying child support arrears after a child becomes an adult
You are not obligated to make child support payments after your child becomes a legal adult. However, you are obligated to pay off all of your arrears, regardless of how old the child is. Arrears are debts that should have been paid at an earlier date, so your child’s age does not change the fact that you owe the money.
If you have been charged for child support following your child aging out of it, you can have your child support order modified to ensure that you are no longer paying that cost. Still, any arrears you have will continue being your obligation.
Have you been affected by life changes that have made it difficult to make your currently ordered child support payments? Get help from a Franklin family law attorney today. Call the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates at 615-977-9370, or submit our contact form to schedule an appointment today. We can help you fight for child support or work to make your payments more affordable, depending on the circumstances you are facing. Our offices are located in Franklin, Columbia, and Brentwood.