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Bowling and the Art of Child Support Reduction

It is becoming more and more common for non-custodial parents (read: the parent with whom a child does not primarily live) to reduce his or her child support without the involvement of the Family Court.  Seemingly for the hell of it total pell-mell style.

Oftentimes the situation will be something like this:  Mr. & Mrs. Chestnut divorce after years of erectile dysfunction and borderline alcoholism and have three (3) wonderful children.  {In fact, two are lovely but the middle child is a bit of a Malfoy}.  The children are placed with (read: physical custody with / live primarily with) Wife.  Husband visits regularly.  Husband pays one thousand dollars ($1000.00) per month to Wife for support of the three Chestnut siblings. 

This goes along well enough with ex-Husband eating beans and getting by until the eldest Chestnut turns eighteen and is instantly, magically, irreversibly a total adult who does not need her parent’s care, time, attention, or finances ever again.  Now, ex-Husband and ex-Wife both know, probably, that they should really return to Family Court to change the Orders.  But both are busy, ex-Husband growing beans on his bean farm and ex-Wife doing the primary heavy lifting raising two-and-one-sort-of children.  So, instead of going back to Court and the whole thing they just pick a number out of the ether.  Easy does it.  Who needs some fancy attorney anyway!?

Ex-Husband: “I was paying a grand a month for three kids but last week I got a bowling score of 650** so that’s what I’m paying from now on!”

**Dear reader, I beg of you do NOT reply to me telling me that this is not a bowling score. Three-love could be a bowling score for all I know and care!**

Ex-Wife: “Your bowling score is hardly an accurate assessment of child support, Charlie.”

Ex-husband’s name is Charlie!

Charlie: “IS TOO!”

And so on.

The ex-couple negotiates and comes up with a magic number neither like.  Here we will say seven hundred dollars ($700.00).

Charlie goes from paying $1000 / month to $700 / month and now has $300.00 / month to spend on new bowling gear and to replace the carburetor in his bean tractor.  Cept here’s the problem.  The Court has been left out of this little side deal.  No one told the Court what the F&*$ is going on.  The Court loves to know what the F&*$ is going on you guys.  The Court still thinks that Charlie is paying $1000 / month and that is what the Court’s Order says.  So every month now that Charlie pays $700 he is accumulating an adorable little debt.  A debt that he will be paying off almost forever.

Now, Charlie is not in contempt, because in our silly hypo ex-Wife agreed to the reduction, but according to R.I. law child support can only be applied retroactive to the date of service of process which means that Charlie is going to be owing a whole lotta money when he finally DOES go back to Court when the youngest Chestnut turns into an adult. 

You are a little confused and want an illustration.

Let’s say the Chestnuts are now 18, 15 {Malfoy}, and 8.  When youngest Chestnut is finally 18 ten years will have passed.  Charlie goes to Court in a fine mood having won the regional bowling championship the evening prior and asks Judge Gutterballs to stop all child support.  He demands it, in fact!  He came with receipts.  All paid up yuh-onna.  Charlie is half-right.  Yes all the Chestnuts are adults now and so no more child support shall be paid moving forward buuuuuuuut according to the Court’s books which are the only ones that matter for reasons for the past ten (10) years Charlie has underpaid child support of (at least) $300 per month, or $3600 per year and oh by the way an arrears has metastasized of $36,000.

oops. 

Judge Gutterballs inquires of Charlie whether he would like to kindly pay $36,000 or go to jail.  All because Charlie did not inform the Court all those ten years ago that the parents changed child support from $1000 / month to $700 per month!

Will Charlie Chestnuts really go to jail, you ask?  The suspense is gnawing at you.  You have read this post this far and need to know.  The answer is likely not.  Unless Ex-Wife (did we name her?) is in a bad mood and really pushes for the clink and Charlie behaves himself as less than a gentleman and a scholar in Court.  But that is not the point.

Charlie came to Court to terminate his child support and now he has been handed a bill for $36,000+ which he will be paying off for the next twenty years (even with interest suspended) at $150.00 per month!  He will be paying child support arrears until his oldest child is forty-eight years old. 

Don’t be like Charlie Chestnuts. Call an attorney today!

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