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$96,000 in child support arrears equals no more children

If you divorce with children and are ordered to make child support payment you should remember that this obligation is different from a spousal support or alimony payment. While much spousal support is designed as a temporary aid to help a spouse until they can be self-supporting, child support is fundamentally different. First, it is never temporary, except in the sense it ends when your child or children's minority ends and they are adults.

Second, the obligation is seen as absolute. If you have children, you have a duty to provide for their upbringing. And this is why child support obligations are so "sticky." They cannot contracted away in a divorce settlement, nor can they be discharged in bankruptcy. If you owe more than $2,500 in child support, you will not be able to obtain a U.S. passport. While you can divorce your spouse, you always are a parent to your children.

This does not mean parents always meet their parental obligations and pay the child support a court has ordered. The Office of Child Support Enforcement reports that in 2009, $108 billion in total back payments was owed to custodial parents. Almost half of that, $53 billion, is owed to the states.

Perhaps that explains the occurrence of multiple stories like the one out of Ohio, where a court ordered a father not to have any further children until he could demonstrate an ability to support the four he already had. In December, a Wisconsin judge issued a similar order, for a man who owed almost $100,000 in child support arrears.

Any change to a child support amount must be obtained by a court order. If you have had a substantial change in circumstance that affects your ability to pay child support, you should contact a family law attorney to determine if you may qualify for a modification of your child support amount.

Source: The Chronicle-Telegram, "Judge tells man who owes nearly $100K in child support to stop having children," Brad Dicken, January 24, 2013

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