The 31-year-old man who served as an object lesson for many when his parents were forced to evict him from their home has made more legal news. Once again, his case holds some lessons for others — wherever they are living.
This time, the native New York man was in front of a judge because he’d continually failed to pay the $55 a week in child support that he owes.
In an effort to collect on behalf of the minor, the court gave its collections office permission to go after the man’s taxes and bank account. That covered some of the past-due support.
The judge, however, wasn’t particularly pleased with the circumstances of the case. Many parents who fall behind on their child support obligations do so for unavoidable reasons. They may be out of work due to illness or a layoff that’s out of their control. Family courts are generally compassionate about those kinds of issues and will usually modify a support order accordingly if the paying parent requests it.
In this case, however, the judge declared the man’s failure to pay support “willful.” Essentially, he hadn’t put any effort into finding a job.
The judge sentenced the man to a year of probation. When he balked, she offered to make it 30 days in jail instead. He wisely chose to accept the probation — although he protested restrictions that wouldn’t allow him to go to a bar. The judge pointed out that if he had money to go to a bar, he had money to pay his child support.
While the man was clearly disgruntled by the ruling, the judge reminded him that the terms of his probation would require him to find work and pay his support. Otherwise, he’d end up in jail anyhow.
Family court orders regarding child support are not optional, and parents who treat them as such are usually in for a shock when the court responds. Because the court really wants to see the support paid, judges will usually try a punishment that will nudge the parent toward that goal. But they won’t hesitate to get tough if a parent won’t comply.
If you legitimately have difficulty with your child support payments, don’t wait until you’re hauled into court to handle the issue. A proactive approach is always best.