Hands of woman and his son holding coins on wooden table

What Can I Do if My Ex Isn’t Paying Their Child Support?

Law Offices of Fisher Wise Dec. 18, 2023

According to the Administration for Children and Families, the United States child support program served 13.2 million children in the country in 2021. That's 1 in 5 children. 20% of children rely on child support. So what happens when one parent isn't keeping up with their payments? 

As a family law attorney at the Law Offices of Fisher Wise, located in Chattanooga, Tennessee, I've assisted numerous clients throughout Hamilton County, Bradley County, and beyond, who have been grappling with the issue of unpaid child support. Know that you have options, and there are legal solutions available that can help you get the support your child deserves. 

Enforcing Child Support Orders 

When a parent fails to fulfill their child support obligations, it's not just a personal matter between two ex-partners. It becomes a legal issue that involves state and federal agencies. The Child Support Enforcement (CSE) program is one such framework designed to ensure the collection of unpaid child support. It's a collaborative effort between states and the federal government, and it employs several tools to secure payments from noncustodial parents. 

These tools range from wage withholding, where a portion of the noncustodial parent's paycheck goes directly towards child support, to more serious measures like license suspensions, tax offsets, and even freezing bank accounts. It may sound harsh, but these measures are in place to ensure that children receive the financial support they need and deserve. 

Sometimes, the situation escalates beyond state borders. In cases where the noncustodial parent has evaded child support by leaving the state (or even the country), federal agencies like the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) and the U.S. Office of the Inspector General (OIG) may intervene. Their involvement underscores the seriousness of adhering to child support orders and the lengths to which the law will go to enforce them. Hiring a child support attorney can make this process smoother.  

The Importance of Paying Child Support 

Child support isn’t just a financial obligation; it's a legal duty that parents owe to their children regardless of their marital status. It's primarily about ensuring the well-being of the child, providing them with the financial stability they need to lead a fulfilling life. This includes covering essentials like food, clothing, school expenses, and medical care. 

I've seen cases where retroactive child support (which is the amount owed before a support order is issued) and child support arrears (the unpaid amounts after a support order is issued) pile up, causing a great deal of stress for both parents. It's far better to stay on top of payments and avoid falling into arrears. 

In my years of practice, I've seen firsthand the positive effect that timely and consistent child support can have on a child's life. It's more than just money; it's a commitment to their wellbeing and future. If you're facing child support issues, don't hesitate to reach out. I'm here to help guide you through the process. 

How Is Child Support Calculated? 

In Tennessee, child support is calculated using the state Child Support Guidelines. These guidelines take into account the adjusted gross income of both parents and a percentage of this total figure is then used to determine the actual amount of child support required. The calculation isn't as simple as it sounds. It considers a variety of factors such as:  

  • the number of children being supported,  

  • any special needs they may have,  

  • work-related childcare expenses, 

  • the combined income of both parents, and  

  • medical insurance costs for the children and available parenting time. 

The obligation to pay child support in Tennessee generally ends when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, unless the child becomes emancipated earlier. 

Understanding Imputed Income 

Now, there are times when a parent may be voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, or they might refuse to show proof of income. In these situations, Tennessee courts can impute income. This means they calculate an income based on the parent's education, employment history, previous income, ability to work, and assets. It's a way to ensure a fair child support amount is determined. 

In some cases, one parent may be voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, or they may refuse to disclose their income. This is where the concept of imputed income comes into play. Tennessee courts calculate imputed income based on factors like education, employment history, previous income, ability to work, and assets owned by the parent. It's a fair way to ensure that both parents contribute to their child's upbringing. 

Modifying Child Support Arrangements 

Child support can be modified or even terminated in certain circumstances. If there's a significant change in either the parents' situation or the needs of the child, a modification might be necessary. Child support arrangements in Tennessee can be modified if there's a "significant variance" between the existing support order and the amount sought. Typically, this means a change of at least 15%. 

Generally, child support ends when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school. However, it can end earlier if the child becomes emancipated. It can also be extended if the child has special needs.  

Help When You Need It Most 

Navigating the world of child support and enforcement can be overwhelming, especially when you're dealing with the emotional toll of a non-compliant ex-partner. That's why I'm here to help. As a compassionate yet assertive attorney, I firmly believe that every child deserves the financial support they're entitled to. So, if you're struggling with unpaid child support, don't hesitate to reach out to the Law Offices of Fisher Wise. We'll stand by your side and fight for your child's rights. 

As an attorney at the Law Offices of Fisher Wise in Chattanooga, Tennessee, I've come across numerous situations where parents grapple with child support issues. My experience serving clients throughout places like Red Bank, East Ridge, Soddy-Daisy, and various counties such as Marion, Rhea, Sequatchie, Hamilton, Bradley, Bledsoe, and Meigs, has made me understand the significance of paying child support. And I'm ready to help you enforce your arrangement when you're dealing with a deadbeat parent.