When parents separate/divorce, a non-custodial parent is expected to pay child support to the other parent to help with the costs of raising the child. Federal and state laws give every child a right to receive financial support from their parents. Even in cases where parents share joint custodial of the child, one parent must still pay child support to the other.
Family courts usually determine child support as part of the divorce proceedings. It means that the law requires the obligor (person paying child support) to remit a specific amount of money to the obligee (person receiving child support) every month.
When the obligor fails to make the payment, he/she is considered to be in arrears. Typically, the defaulted amount is considered debt that must be repaid. This is referred to as paying back child support.
Can an Adult Sue Back Child Support?
As mentioned above, if one parent fails to meet his/her child support obligations, the defaulted amount is considered debt that must be repaid. However, an adult child cannot single-handedly file a lawsuit against a deadbeat parent for unpaid child support.
This is because child support usually terminates when you reach the age of majority (18 years old in most states), graduate from high school, or become emancipated (meaning you are free from your parents). The only exception is when you have a disability that prevents you from earning a decent living and supporting yourself.
The exception covers anything from mental to a physical disability, including chronic illnesses such as schizophrenia. However, when it comes to child support, the court doesn’t focus on the disability itself. Instead, it focuses on whether the adult child can or cannot take care of themselves without parental supervision and financial support.
If the court establishes that the adult child cannot support themselves, it will calculate the exact amount of child support the same way it would do for a minor. The court will also establish whether the child is eligible for any financial support from the federal government to supplement his/her income.
When Is Back Child Support Owed to an Adult Child?
An adult child can sue a parent for back child support owed in arrears if he/she is the designated representative or executor of the custodial parent’s estate. The term “child support in arrears” means that the obligor failed to make child support payments and now owes back child support.
Back child support may be assigned or unassigned. The term “assigned child support” means that the defaulted payment will be remitted to the state. This is done as reimbursement in cases where the state had to step in to help the custodial parent meet the child’s day-to-day needs.
On the other hand, “unassigned back child support” refers to the amount of money paid directly to the custodial parent who used other means to cover the missing amounts when the non-custodial parent decided not to pay. As long as a child support waiver did not exist, the defaulted amount is considered debt that must be repaid in full.
Who Pays Back Child Support?
The non-custodial parent who defaulted in paying child support is the culprit. If the court ordered your father to be paying child support to your mother and he decided not to pay, he is the one at fault and vice versa.
Typically, the repayment of this debt may include interest charges and late payment fees in addition to the actual arrears. In most cases, back child support matters fall under state jurisdiction, but the federal government may step in if the obligor is at least two years behind in child support payments.
Parents who owe child support in arrears have no other option but to find means of paying the debt in full even if the child is already beyond the age of majority.
What Happens If You Refuse to Pay Back Child Support?
A non-custodial parent who refuses to meet his/her child support obligations risks facing severe consequences. The penalties for refusing to pay back child support tend to vary from state to state, but things become worse when the federal government is involved.
Some of the penalties for refusing to pay back child support include:
- Denial of passport: Typically, if you owe more than $2,500 in back child support, you cannot apply for a new or use your existing passport.
- Suspension of licenses: The government may also decide to suspend your driver’s license and professional license. Your hunting and fishing licenses will be revoked as well.
- Seize of tax refund: The federal government may seize your tax refund and direct it to the right party if you owe someone back child support.
- Cross-border enforcement: Some individuals try to flee the country to avoid paying the debt, but that is not going to be easy. Many countries corporate with US child support enforcement agencies to ensure parents pay child support in full. Therefore, running to another country may not be an option for you.
- Property seizure: In some cases, the federal government may seize your property to help pay the debt you owe in back child support.
- Jail time: If you have been notified several times, but you haven’t made any plans to start paying the debt you owe in back child support, or if you are found criminally non-compliant, you risk serving a jail term.
If your father owes you back child support and is not making any plans to pay the debt, don’t hesitate to sue him. The state or federal government will take up the issue and order him to pay you the amount in arrears.
However, before you proceed with the case, make sure you talk to an experienced child support attorney who will assess your situation and guide you on how to proceed with the matter.