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Paying child support without a court order

Paying child support without a court order is a question that comes up very often in my practice.  This can apply anytime there is a child between two people, whether the couple is married, or unmarried.  Here is a common scenario.  You’ve moved out of the home.  You’re certain that the relationship cannot be saved.  However, neither of you has gone to the Court to file the appropriate paperwork (i.e. Petition for Divorce or Petition for Child Support).  Here are the questions I often hear from such a scenario regarding paying child support without a court order.

Am I required to have a court order

Legally speaking, if you do not have a court order, you are not mandated to make child support payments.  On the other hand, without a court order, the other parent has no obligation to pay either so it can be difficult for you to seek support from that person.  In other words, there is no legal obligation for a parent to pay child support without an order to do so.  If support is later sought, it can be collected retroactively but only so far back as the date that the Petition has been served upon the parent.

Practically speaking, your child(ren) are entitled to financial support from each of his/her/their parents.  If you are the person that moved out, the other parent is now paying the bills and the child’s expenses on his/her own.  How fair is that?  Should that parent really have to file a legal document for you to assist with your kids?

Often I have situations where a parent has been paying and doing everything right but somewhere along the line things communication between the parents have broken down.   Maybe someone has moved on into another relationship and there is a need to seek revenge on that parent.  Maybe one parent is still angry over the breakup.  Whatever the cause, the child/ren should never become a casualty in a battle between parents.  Here are some common support related issues and their solutions. Have a different scenario and need help?  Email  me HERE or call me (978) 225-0661 to discuss your matter.

Can I get credit for what I have already paid

Provided you have proof of payment, or if the other party agrees that you have made certain payments and will sign documentation to that effect, you will be given credit for payments made but only up to the date that you are served with the paperwork seeking the court order.  This is because the other parent can only seek retroactive payment back that far.  For example, if you have proof that you paid $500 between the time you were service with the Petition and the time you have a hearing, that will be credited.

I paid in cash. She says she will deny. What are my options?

 I always tell my clients, “Keep a receipt, pay with a check or have some type of written proof.”    In the event that your proof lies in the bank account that you no longer have access to because the other parent has removed access, that’s where you really need an attorney to help. Paying support in cash is simply never a good idea.  That said, if you have already done this, you need to gather the proof to show the Court that you paid through the discovery process (if at all – this can be difficult to prove). The Court will not get involved in he said/she said situations, so unless it can be proven, it will be as if it never happened.  Hire an attorney if you find yourself in this scenario. It’s a difficult process to navigate on your own.

Does my support have to be paid through my employer?

No. Support can be paid direct from one parent to another without involving a state agency (Department of Revenue or Department of Health and Human Services).   If the two parties agree, support flows direct from one parent to the other and there is no middle party.  In this scenario, however, there are risks for the parent receiving support that it won’t be paid.  There are also risks for the payor parent when claims of default or arrearage are made.  Discuss this option with an attorney before proceeding.  There are steps you can take to lessen the risks associated on each side.

Can I fight this without hiring a lawyer?

As with any legal issue, you can always proceed on your own.  However, there are likely to be problems that arise throughout the process that warrant the expertise of a family lawyer.  Paying child support without a court order can be a tough one to work out and having an attorney not only ensures that you pay the correct amount but will help minimize your chances of going back to court later. You can’t navigate the process on your own and then hire an attorney later if you have trouble.  You have one chance to get this right, so hire an attorney and do it right the first time.