Parents are obligated to support their children even if their relationship comes to an end. When this happens, the typical arrangement is that the non-custodial parent pays child support to the parent who retains primary custody, with the amount calculated to cover the children’s needs and help them enjoy a lifestyle similar to the one they had before the relationship breakdown.  Support obligations generally terminate automatically when a minor turns 21, although they may continue by agreement or if special circumstances exist, such as disability.

While most support payments are made directly to the custodial parent, they may also be remitted through the Office of Child Support Enforcement or the Support Collection Unit. These organizations keep careful records of how much support has been collected and how much is owed, and are authorized to take action through both automated and administrative procedures when a parent becomes delinquent on their support payments. Unfortunately, there are many instances where the payor decides to skip out on his or her obligations, resulting in arrears that put the child and the custodial parent at a financial disadvantage.

When a parent refuses to pay

New York law presumes that when a parent fails to pay child support, the act is a willful violation of a court order. The burden then shifts to the payor to prove that he or she is unable to make the required payments due to a substantial change in circumstances (e.g. loss of employment that was not caused by one’s own actions) and that a modification of the original support order is called for. It is important to remember that child support arrears that accumulate prior to a modification request cannot be reduced or eliminated.

In New York, the other parent, the Support Collection Unit, or the Office of Child Support Enforcement can compel the delinquent payor to repay arrears for up to 20 years from the date of default. Back child support payments can be temporarily increased by up to 50% over the amount originally ordered.  Tax refunds may also be sent to the Support Collection Unit or Office of Child Support Enforcement instead of the delinquent payor to pay down arrears, and if a parent reaches a point where they owe two months of current child support and are in arrears of $3,000 or more, his or her bank account can be frozen and its contents seized to cover back payments.

If you are a custodial parent who is not getting the support payments your child needs from your former spouse or partner, then contact a New York family law attorney who can counsel you on how to initiate proceedings to reclaim those arrears. Alternatively, if you are a payor who has lost your job or experienced a similar change in circumstances, then an attorney can help you obtain a support modification that allows you to stay current with your payments while you regain your financial footing. Contact the law offices of Jayson Lutzky, P.C. for a free in-person initial consultation. Mr. Lutzky is a highly experienced Bronx, NY divorce and family lawyer. Visit www.MyNewYorkCityLawyer.com to learn more about how we can help y0u during this difficult time.