Patience with Collecting Child Support

Interesting issue today on Alabama Divorce Questions. Mom is convinced Dad and his family are bad news for the kids, wants to preserve the status quo, wants to minimize Dad’s contact with the children. The judge has ordered no visitation so far, and Dad has shown no interest in the children.

However, Dad also hasn’t paid any of the court-ordered child support, so Mom is weighing her options. Should she take him back to court, which would risk re-awakening Dad’s and his family’s interest in the children? Or should she do nothing? She says she doesn’t need the cash now; she never counted on Dad to pay anything anyway, so she views any child support she receives as saving for college.

If she’s willing to live with a little risk, she can content herself with doing nothing right now, other than to keep careful records of any payments Dad actually makes. The reason is that child support ordered by a court but unpaid accrues interest at 12% until it’s paid. And the statute of limitaiton on each court-ordered payment is 20 years from its due date, so Mom can afford to be patient. She could even wait until her children (now 6 and 7) are adults if she wanted to.

So what’s the risk? Two of them, actually. The first is that Dad might die. Unless he dies with net worth in his estate (and precious few of us do), she wouldn’t get anything. The second risk is one of collection. Here, she would hope to use an Income Withholding Order, but that’s only as good as Dad’s next paychecks from his present employer. She could also ask for help from DHR, which could threaten jail time for Dad, license suspension, etc.