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Is being poor a defense for an inability to pay child support?

In today's hard economic times many are facing challenges such as foreclosure, insurmountable debt, layoff and an inability to find gainful employment. Nevertheless, regardless of their circumstance, non-custodial parents are required by law to pay child support on a monthly basis. Economic dynamics have changed but laws which govern child support payments have not.

A person unable to meet their child support obligations due to no fault of their, may nevertheless suffer the consequences for failure to pay such as suspension of their license, garnishing of wages, large back support payments and even a criminal charge resulting in jail time.

Recently the Michigan Supreme Court in a four to three decision stated that those criminally charged with a failure to pay child support are allowed to defend themselves and show the court that given their respective circumstance, it is impossible for them to meet their monthly child support obligation. Even though the option to do so sounds promising, the burden is very high.

The defendant must make a good faith effort to explore and exhaust all options which may include sale of any existing assets, refinance of the home, monetary assistance from friends and family and a concerted effort to find employment. Dissenting justices noted that this new standard is virtually impossible for the very poor with no assets, no job or a support system to meet.

In Michigan incomes of both parents are taken into account when calculating child support payments along with other related costs such as childcare, healthcare and education costs. In the event the non-custodial parent loses their job, this Supreme Court decision gives them an option to present their circumstance. Thus, close scrutiny of financial statements and assets will become even more important.

It is not easy to meet this new standard but being in a child support dispute can be mentally and emotionally taxing. During any dispute, it is very important to keep the child's best interest and well-being in mind.

Source: Up North Live, "Should poor parents still pay up?," Roxanne Werly, Aug. 1, 2012

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