Virginia Dads often forget, in their understandable shock and anger toward their ex-wives, that child support payments are not intended to keep the ex-wife floating in crème de menthe mints and caviar. A Virginia Circuit Court judge ordered child support payments to benefit your children, not you or your ex-wife, so you have a responsibility to aid your child. If you are in arrears, you naturally hope to get relief from your debt. In Virginia, to be blunt, you are not off the hook.
Child Support Arrears is a Big Problem
Virginia’s Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) collected $607,383,240 in child support payments in 2016. That sounds like a lot. It is dwarfed by the arrearages — money owed in child support — however.
Virginia’s children suffered from $2.4 billion in arrearages that same year, according to a report from the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE). For 2016, non-custodial parents owed $721,447,956 in current (not past due) support.
While some small percentage of Virginia’s men after divorce may suffer from financial hardship through circumstances beyond their control, most continue in their previous careers. The amount of child support was set by your divorce judge based on that income level, so the court decree gives you an obligation to make payments on a defined schedule.
Meet the Big Guns: DSS & DCSE
If you owe child support and fall into arrears, more than just Virginia’s Department of Social Services and DCSE will pursue you. Their powers are not to be ignored, but backing them up is an entire federal agency. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services maintains OCSE, which monitors programs in all 50 states, including the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Not much gets by DCSE, but even less gets by OCSE. Some states have “debt compromise” programs, but Virginia is not one of them. Those plans, monitored by OCSE, run on the theory that the child is better off getting something rather than nothing, even if the something is far less than a judge’s original order.
Virginia does not subscribe to that line of reasoning. You divorced; you have children; you are not relieved of your financial responsibility to them.
All Adcocked Up
Adcock v Commonwealth of Virginia went to the Virginia Supreme Court in 2011, resulting in a ruling that could, theoretically, allow you to be absolved of arrearages, financially if not morally.
It takes a unique combination of indolence by the custodial parent, stubbornness by the parent ordered to pay child support, and a lot of patience, but it could happen.
In Adcock the Virginia State Supreme Court found that each missed child support payment created a judgment that, after 20 years, could be vacated if not paid.
So if you were ordered to pay child support to benefit your two-year-old, let’s say, twenty years later (yes, your child would be 22), if your ex-wife has not pursued you, you can be relieved of the debt under Code of Virginia § 8.01-251:
“A. No execution shall be issued and no action brought on a judgment, including a judgment in favor of the Commonwealth and a judgment rendered in another state or country, after 20 years from the date of such judgment or domestication of such judgment, unless the period is extended as provided in this section.”
Your ex-wife would hardly be described as a fit mother to let you escape these court-ordered payments for 20 years, but Adcock demonstrates that it could happen.
Getting Back Child Support Owed
Let’s try the shoe on the other foot now, and examine what happens when your ex-wife owes your child (remember, the debt is accumulated for the benefit of the minor, not you) payments for child support.
You do not have the right to negotiate a “settlement” for arrearages, because your ex-wife owes support to your minor children, and you cannot bargain away their rights. Her attempts to have the arrearages forgiven should fall on deaf ears, because her obligation is to her own children, not you.
She cannot bargain away, or ask for forgiveness, of a criminal contempt charge, which triggers with each delinquent payment, month after month.
Arrearages mean she is defying the court order to provide child support. She may have her attorney petition the court for a modification in child support for a few reasons:
- Inability to pay through no fault of her own
- Incarceration with no financial resources to maintain payments or overcome the accumulated interest
Her petition can be challenged by your attorney, since you as the custodial parent have to work in the best interest of your children. Your basis for challenging it can be a simple as pointing to the original court order, or providing evidence she is financially able to pay. If she is incarcerated or economically distressed, her debt will accumulate with interest.
Call The Firm For Men’s Child Support Lawyers
Whether you contact The Firm For Men online or by calling 757-383-9184, you can be assured you will speak with an experienced Virginia family law attorney. We can help you with all aspects of divorce, including financial, emotional, and legal challenges. We work hard each day to defend the rights of Virginia’s men.