Enforcement of the decree is difficult, if not impossible, without the help of a lawyer. Some lawyers specialize in collections, and others won't touch it. Before you incur the cost of trying to chase your spouse to collect money, ask yourself:
If you are having problems collecting the child support ordered by court or put into your settlement agreement, it is a crime, and you do have recourse.
- Your ex-spouse's wages can be garnished.
- You can contact your state's child support enforcement agency.
- You can contact the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement online at www.acf.dhhs.gov or the National Child Support Enforcement Association at www.ncsea.org.
- Does my ex-spouse have the money or income for me to collect? If the answer is “no,” you might be wasting your time and money trying to collect what he owes you.
- Are there any other assets that the judge will allow me to collect? A car, home, boat? If so, how much will it cost me to collect against those assets, and how long will it take? Again, it simply might not be worth it.
- Has my ex-spouse put assets in someone else's name? If so, you might run into serious collection problems. Or, if you can prove your ex did this, sue the third party and try to recover the assets from him or her.
- If you're dealing with the collection of child support or spousal support, try having your state support enforcement agency work with you to collect from your ex. (Read on!)
What if money isn't the issue? The problem is that your ex-spouse has custody of the children but refuses to send you their school reports.
If you still have a lawyer, you can ask that she call your ex's lawyer about the problem. Sometimes a phone call is all it takes. If lawyers are no longer in the picture (or never were), you might want to write a letter to your ex. It might not do any good, but at least you'll be making a record of the problem should you later decide to pursue the issue in court. (First, make a copy of the letter. Unless your agreement requires you to do so, you don't have to send it by certified mail. Some people don't pick up certified letters.)
Of course, some problems with compliance must be handled by a judge. A woman lived in Missouri, but her daughter flew to New York every summer to visit her father, in accordance with the parties' separation agreement. At the end of one summer, the father refused to send the daughter home. He claimed his daughter's stepfather spanked her. The judge ruled that the child should not be spanked by anyone except a parent, but that she should be returned to her mother in Missouri.