If you receive a Family Court Summons for a Child Support Enforcement Proceeding, you must respond in person or if you live out of state by telephone. The case will be decided by a Child Support Magistrate based upon sworn testimony and documents that are accepted by the court as evidence.
The Petition will allege that you have failed to pay and comply with a child support agreement or court order. No matter why the Petition is brought and whether it is true or false, you must be prepared to defend yourself. Your defense might challenge whether the agreement or order is valid, whether or not you paid the obligations, whether or not there is proof that you did not pay and whether the failure to pay was willful. There are other defenses but they cannot all be listed here, so instead this and my next post will focus on the most commonly used defenses.
Always pay your child support obligations by check or money order and keep the proof of payment. If you must pay by cash, you MUST get a receipt for payment because otherwise you will not have any proof of payment. You must bring your proof of payments to court as it is the best defense against a non-payment claim. If you are offsetting against your child support obligation you must also provide the proof that you are owed money by the petitioner and that you have claimed a credit.
If you make your support payments to the Child Support Enforcement Bureau, they will have no record of your offsetting and will only have a record of payments required and payments made.
If you have experienced a change in your financial circumstances and your income is reduced, you may need to file a cross-petition for a downward modification of your child support obligation. The importance of this cannot be overstated because it may make the difference in proving whether your failure to pay child support was willful.
If the claimed expense required the other parent to obtain your consent and you did not consent, be prepared to testify why the claim fails due to the lack of consultation and consent. Some agreements will require consent before an obligation to pay certain extra-curricular expenses are deemed valid.
It is also possible that the claimed expense may be dismissed due to failure to comply with terms of the order or the agreement. Be ready to explain and show why the expense should not be approved by the court. One example is the failure to use participating health care providers.
My next post will address how to try to avoid a finding of a willful failure to pay child support.
Family Court proceedings can get complicated very quickly and it is always best to have an attorney guide you to avoid unfavorable results. Please call my office for an appointment so that I can help you protect your rights.