Question: Can I get my child support payments retroactively reduced? They are far beyond what I can afford.

Answer 1/2
It's hard to believe the court would make your support payments so large that even the interest on the payments is beyond your means.

This suggests that your income in the past was much greater than it is currently, and that the back child support payments are based on your earlier income.

In general, the courts will never retroactively modify what you were supposed to have paid in the past. If your income level goes down, they may lower your current payments based on your new, lower income, but they won't go back and reduce your past payments.

If my assumption is correct and your salary in the past is much greater than it is now, the courts are going to take the view that you should have set aside money at that time for child support, in which case you would not owe so much now. In other words, I don't think the courts will be sympathetic.

ADVICE:

1. Try to pay as much as you can. Make payments when the payments are due, even if it's not the full amount. This will show the courts that you are trying your best to meet your legal obligations. The courts will probably garnish your wages automatically so you won't have to decide how much is enough to pay.

2. In general, you can only be sent to jail if you willfully refuse to make payments (that is, if you have the ability to pay but choose not to).

3. You might try to get the courts to change the payments or to get them stretched out over a longer time frame. Contact the "Child Support Enforcement Office" in the state where the child support order was issued. They might help you file a motion (for modification) or at least give you some advice on what your options are.

4. The worst thing to do is to stop making payments. Keep paying what you can and possibly file a motion to try and get your payments changed.

5. If you have something valuable (like a house) you might consider selling it to pay off your obligation or to at least seriously reduce the principal. This might mean "starting over" in life -- living in an apartment or with your parents while trying to rebuild your finances. If you do have something valuable and don't sell it, a lien may get placed on it anyway. Better to liquidate it yourself.

HERE ARE SOME THINGS THAT YOU SHOULD NOT DO:

1. Don't declare bankruptcy in the hopes of eliminating your obligations. This won't work. As with back taxes, child support obligations will stay with you past bankruptcy.

2. Don't stop paying. This just makes you look irresponsible to the courts and may get you put in jail.

3. Don't give all your worldly wealth to a close relative and live off that relative while claiming to the courts that you no longer have any money and thus can't make payments. The courts will see right through this ploy (they've seen it all before). You will be held in contempt, get in serious trouble, and end up owing even more.

4. Don't flee the country. Actually, this will work since the laws of the United States will (probably) not be able to follow you to the new country. But it's very irresponsible (these are, after all, your children that you'd be abandoning). You'll never be able to return to the U.S.. Your children will hate you; your family will be broken up. And forget about getting help from your children when you are old and need assistance.
by Mrs JW
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