For a long time – years, in fact – I didn’t want to point the law at my husband to help me collect unpaid child support. I thought about the welfare of his minor children in Colombia and the fact that as an undocumented immigrant my son’s dad could be jailed for a while and then deported. None of which wouldn’t do any member of two families any good.
But things change. So, what did change?
For one thing, our children grew up. Luís’ youngest child is older than my son Ari by about three years, which means that right now he’s about 23. He also no longer lives in Colombia – his mom re-married and took their son to Curação, where they live comfortably with her new husband.
Secondly, there’s what happened after my husband made his 3rd visit in 10 years to attend Ari’s high school graduation. Ari’s dad is a master car mechanic and helped us solve some car woes while he was here. When he left, Luís promised to return in a month or two to help us with the balance of our car problems. Well, guess what?
Ari’s dad not only failed to return but when I eventually said to him about a year later, “Look, Luís, if you don’t want to come back and help us fix the cars that’s up to you. But if you’re not coming, I need you to start sending child support, because we truly need that money. And after all, you owe several years of back payments,” my husband laughed at me.
He said, “Oh you think so, do you? Well the truth of the matter is, I don’t have to either give you anything or do anything that you want me to do.”
“OK,” I replied, “I don’t know if that’s true or not, but we’ll find out because I’m definitely going to take some kind of action. Our son needs financial help while he’s in college and at this point, I want my money.”
Luís snorted. “Besides which, do you know what kind of exorbitant monies those people are trying to extort from me?” Without waiting for my answer, he pressed on, “$70 a week, that’s how much!”
I had a comeback for that too. “If you think that putting $70 a week towards the expenses of a child being raised in the United States is a lot of money, you’re a completely delusional idiot.” And then I hung up the phone, because hadn’t I said all there was to say?
Another thing had changed too, in the political arena: an executive order that Pres. Obama had issued on immigration recommends that undocumented US residents not be detained for non-violent legal offenses. I felt relieved of needing to worry that Luís would be in grave danger of deportation if I filed for help collecting child support. I was unlikely to be jeopardizing the chance of getting payments from him, either.
I went ahead and filed a claim with the Probation Department. This, for some reason, is the New Jersey government department that collects child support – and learned that child support rules in Florida are not as family friendly as the New Jersey laws are.
I know that in New Jersey if a fellow owes court-ordered child support and won’t pay, the police just lock him up in jail – because this had happened to a friend of mine. They let Pablo out during the day so he could work to pay his child support backlog but by 6 or 7pm he had to be back at the county jail and spend every night there until he was caught up. It took a long time and it was hard on his second wife, who was also my friend. But between the two of them, the couple managed to pay down Pablo’s support arrears in a little under 18 months.
In Florida, the child support recovery system doesn’t work this way but I heard that a deadbeat dad who owes child support in Florida might come to be viewed unfavorably by the courts … and if this happens, he could potentially experience other kinds of troubles. In my husband’s case, for example, the court suspended Luís’ driver’s license after a year of waiting to see if he was going to voluntarily resume making child support payments (which he didn’t do).
Suddenly, my husband can’t wait to send his child support payment out, arrears and all. It’s going to take Luís a while to pay down the nearly $9000 in back monies that accumulated during the several years he didn’t pay, but my caseworker says that the state of New Jersey will continue to pursue collection until the balance is completely paid down. So, there’s hope yet.