Child Support Arrears. How Am I Supposed to Pay These Off? – Chris

“Dear Steve,

I once earned around $80K and support for my one child was withheld from my pay and sent to my ex. I changed jobs and now make much less money. Despite repeated appeals, I not been able to get a modification order. Now, my daughter is turning 18 and I have lots of arrears. I have been unable to get a job which pays enough for me to live on what is left of my pay after withholding.

From what I’ve read, federal law prevents the state agency having jurisdiction from withholding more than 65% of my earnings. I have not found any information on what will happen with the withholding once I am responsible for paying arrears only (at age 18, no additional support amount is being added to the balance due).

Will the law require the state to lower the amount they withhold from my pay, since it is for arrears only? I’ve been in the “poor house” for five years now and I’m hoping for some relief. My ex got our house in the divorce and has a great job with a state university as a college professor. Over the first 12 years of my daughter’s life, I paid support totaling around $100K. My ex and my daughter are doing fine and I have a great relationship with my daughter, so I have no feelings of guilt and do not consider myself a “deadbeat dad”. Thanks in advance for any help or hope you can offer!


Dear Chris,

These days I see fathers paying child support in two primary buckets. You’ve got those that fail to meet their obligations and take care of their kids, and those that just can’t ever seem to get ahead and make ends meet while paying child support. It’s sad either way.

I’ve got a friend here in North Carolina that is paying child support and the system has really jerked him around. It’s not unusual for him to have a regular court visit and get his child support increased only to make it retroactive for the past year.

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The only possible path I’ve seen that produces any results that would be considered satisfactory would be for you to contact your state department that is handling the collection of support. It’s a convoluted and bureaucratic process in most locales. When you contact them inquire about getting a modification based on the new income. It sounds like the reduction in pay is not a recent event and you can provide sufficient support for the reduction. Hopefully they still have your file open even though your time is over.

I called my friend I mentioned above and he had some good suggestions. He said you should call your old case worker or child support hotline for specific advice. He suggested the case worker would be most familiar with the situation and would be the first person to start with.

Please post your responses and follow-up messages to me on this in the comments section below.


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Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
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