My mother hasn't received child support payments from my father for over a year; I think she's become incredibly depressed about her treatment by the legal system, and has come to believe that no matter what she does, she'll have to bear the full financial burden of raising my sister. Help me inspire her with a rational reason why she should keep trying.
posted by anonymous to law & government (13 answers total)
Some background: I'm the oldest of two children (myself and my sister), and my parents separated after I had already reached the age of maturity. I haven't spoken to my father since the separation, nor have my mother or sister - to keep it succinct, he was an abusive man, and none of us want to try to "make it work" after the hell that we endured when we were a family.
They divorced not long after the separation. My father didn't get any custody of my sister (as I said, they haven't spoken for years), and my mother got a restraining order against him. My father was made to pay a weekly child support payment - and, loving father that he was, negotiated it down to the state minimum of $49/week. He was also obligated to pay half of all my sister's out-of-pocket medical expenses. Though I was in college at the time, he was not obligated by the court to pay me anything; nevertheless, to let me know how he felt, he cut me and my sister out of his life insurance.
Since mid-2011, he's stopped paying both child support and medical expenses. He owes about a year's worth in back payments, and my mother has had to take on a second job to help make ends meet - my sister has also taken on a job to pay her own expenses. For the most part, both have trouble making ends meet, and my mother lives week-to-week, constantly exhausted and frazzled.
My father hasn't been employed since about 2007, so we've been told repeatedly that there is no way to garnish his wages or find out what he earns. He moves from place to place - I know he lived with his brother briefly, and he also lived [illegally] in the empty rooms of a hotel. I think he lives with a friend now, but I really don't know. My mother thinks it's possible that he has been earning money under the table somehow, this entire time, and that he's deliberately concealing it from us so as to avoid paying child support. This is possible, but, of course, also just speculation.
A few months ago, my mother took my father to Family Court for non-payment of child support and medical expenses. The court ruled that he was "willfully disobedient" of the divorce order, but had no set penalty in place for willful disobedience (which infuriates me, but the law is the law), and asked my mother to select the penalty. She asked her lawyer for probation, but - for whatever reason - her lawyer stood and asked that "no penalty be assessed."
This launched my mother into a deep depression. She is noticeably more apathetic about everything, and even though her lawyer advised her to just "go to court a second time" she doesn't think it would be worth the grief. She now believes that, even if my father were placed on probation, my sister would probably still never receive the child support she's owed. I think she firmly believes that, just like during their marriage, my father will continue to evade responsibility and face no consequences for it.
I have a suspicion that there are probably more ways for my mother to recover these child support payments than she sees, but she has simply become too enervated by this entire experience to keep trying. I too am at a loss as to what to do, and am forced to agree with her that, even if the 'penalty assessed' had been jail time, my father would probably still be able to successfully shirk these payments.
I know none of you are "a" lawyer or "my/her" lawyer, but at this point, I just need a convincing reason that would inspire her to meet with her lawyer. What other avenues to recover this money might she even have? Are we screwed?
(Also, we're in New York state, if that helps)