Thomas McCutcheon

Q: My ex-husband was ordered at our divorce hearing to pay child support in the amount of $350.00 every two weeks for our two children and to keep them on his insurance. He hasn’t done either one. The children are on All Kids and Medicaid health insurance. He is over $10,000 past due on child support. He is not working right now and hasn’t paid child support in several months. Is he in contempt? I’ve been told no. He never helps with the kids. He can see them anytime he wants to, but he chooses not to see them much at all. I’ve been told that there is nothing I can do. Would you please advise me on what rights I have?

- Lisa, Tuscumbia, AL

A: Your children deserve better and it must be very frustrating to see this happening.

You have raised a number of issues and they are, unfortunately, more common than they should be.

First, the fact is that the children are covered medically and that is great. If they were not eligible for publicly funded programs and you purchased commercial health insurance you could potentially make your ex-husband pay you back for the cost you incur. I say potentially because he is not paying anything now.

Back when I did divorce work I always advised my clients to turn their case over to DHR after the divorce became final. It costs little and they are aggressive. They have so many cases that they can not be as fast as a privately paid lawyer, but good lawyers are expensive.

To answer your question as to whether or not he is in contempt of court would require more information than I have but I will give you the legal analysis that the courts typically use:

• If the father is working and not paying he is in contempt. His bills and living expenses are not a factor, child support comes first.

• If, on the other hand, the father is injured or disabled to the extent that he can not work then he can not be held in contempt.

• If the father is voluntarily not working, he can be held in contempt.

• If the father is voluntarily under employed, i.e., a dentist choosing to work in a car wash, he can be held in contempt.

All of these must be proven in court. I hope I have given the information that you need to answer your question.

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