If you are facing an
enforcement case where your ex-spouse has asserted that you have missed
child support payments then you can take heart that there are defenses that you and
your attorney can offer a judge. It is true that “the proof is in
the pudding” in large part when it comes to child support. Either
you made the payment or you did not. That much is fairly black and white.
Let’s discuss some of those defenses in today’s blog post from the
Law Office of Bryan Fagan.
Did you make payments? If so, say so!
It may seem simplistic to read the following statement but stay with me,
regardless. Payment of child support is a defense against the assertion
that you have not paid child support. Your attorney will certainly have
looked over the other side’s calculations to determine if you have
been given all the credit you deserve for payments made to your ex-spouse.
Have you made any direct payments that did not go through the Attorney
child support registry? If so it is unlikely that those payments were taken into account in the
Attorney General’s listings and is also not likely to be included
in the enforcement suit filed by your ex-spouse.
Be aware that if your
Divorce Decree states that child support payments that have not gone through the child
support registry are considered to be gifts then you will not have leg
to stand on in this regard.
Your attorney will also be able to introduce evidence that is intended
to help convince the judge to render punishments that are less severe
than the ones being requested by your ex-spouse. For example, if you are
able to show the judge that despite having lost a job or suffered an injury
you still made at least partial payments of support each month as ordered
then it’s possible for you to not be held in contempt of court.
The reason is that in doing so your attorney has proven that you were
not willfully or brazenly ignoring the rules of the court.
On occasion Respondents have been successful in showing that because he
or she has made payments towards diapers, medical care, extracurricular
activities and things of that nature the same sort of leniency should
apply. This is a double edged sword, however, as the ability to provide
for things of this nature can lead a judge to believe that you largely
had the ability to pay the actual child support as well.
Drum roll, please- The Judge makes a ruling
At the conclusion of both cases in chief, the judge will consider all the
evidence and make a ruling as well as a sentence (punishment). As the
defendant you can be found guilty and be sentenced to up to 180 days in
jail per violation. Note that the days in jail will run concurrently so
there is no risk of you going to jail for any more than six months. Monetary
fines are possible of up to $500 per violation. You may also have a suspended
sentence put upon you wherein it is your responsibility to pay back the
support as ordered or risk going to jail.
On the other hand, you can be found not guilty by the judge. Regardless,
the court will render separate sentences for each violation and those
sentences will run at the same time if you are found guilty.
Community Supervision is possible as a punishment instead of being sentenced to spend a period
of time in jail. For instance, you and the other side may agree to this
punishment before trial- although the judge would have to agree with the
decision. Keep in mind that if your jail sentence is suspended- i.e. held
up in order to allow you to pay your back child support- that you do not
have to be supervised necessarily. Unless your circumstances warrant it
your money could probably be better left to pay for the back child support
rather than the community supervision fees. The longest you could be placed
under community supervision is ten years.
Enforcement Hearings Overview
This will be the final installment in our series of blog posts on Enforcement
hearings. What have we learned throughout our discussion on this subject?
First and foremost when it comes to child support it is always best to
follow your Final Decree of Divorce. If you are the parent who is ordered
to pay support go ahead and make your payments through the Child Support
Registry as instructed. Even if your ex-spouse says it is ok to just pay
him or her directly. This may be a kind gesture but if anything happens
where payments become late or incomplete that kindness may disappear and
you may find yourself in court facing an enforcement case.
If do get to a point where an enforcement case is in your future, take
heart that you do not have to submit to exactly what the other side is
alleging. Make sure to hire an attorney who has experience and an attention
for detail in enforcement cases. Whatever little details you can share
about past payments or circumstances that led to missed payments make
sure to do so with your attorney. That information could turn into legitimate
and timely defenses in your enforcement case. Finally, if you can show
a willingness to compromise you may be able to avoid a hearing altogether.
Questions about enforcement cases? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
The attorneys with the
Law Office of Bryan Fagan have experience in handling enforcement cases on behalf of clients. Whether
you are interesting in bringing an enforcement case against your ex-spouse
or are needing an attorney to defend you in such a case, our attorneys
stand ready to serve.
For a free of charge consultation with one of our licensed
family law attorneys please do not hesitate to
contact us today. A free of charge consultation is only a phone call away and we
are available to meet with you six days a week.