This week Ask Carolyn readers asked about child support arrearages and a deadbeat dad; and holiday alcohol problems and blacking out.
My ex-husband and I had our divorce finalized in 2014. At the time we had two minor children. My daughter who was 16 at the time lived with her dad, and my son who was 14 lived with me. We had joint custody. However, he was ordered to pay child support to me, as well as carry insurance on both children. He was also required to pay 80/20 on any bills that were not covered my insurance. We were to provide our current phone numbers and address to the other party until the children graduated from high school.
Since 2014, my ex has not had one visit with our son. I have called to ask him to get him, and he said no. I saw our daughter just about every day. He has not had insurance on our son since the order, and I was forced to put him on Medicaid. Our daughter graduated in 2016 and our son will graduate this year, and outside of child support he does nothing for him. I know I can take him to court because he is in contempt, but I cannot afford it. Will the Department of Health & Human Services make me repay for my son’s use of Medicaid? He had a major surgery two years ago plus rehab. I’m kind of at a loss as to what I need to or can do. I can’t afford to carry my son on my insurance.
Carolyn Answers …
You need to do two things tomorrow:
One, you need to run, not walk, to Child Support Enforcement at 400 West Market Street, Suite 400, Greensboro, NC 272401. Posted office hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Take your court order with you, and also take your recent pay stub. You need a new child support order, which likely will be higher than the one you have now (provided both of you are making about what you made in 2014 or more). When your daughter graduated, you should have asked the court for child support to be reviewed, as you had the only dependent child at that point.
The reason I want you to run to do this: Your new child support order will be retroactive to the date of filing, so the longer you wait the less you will get. There is a small fee, which is under $100.
Then, you need to go to the clerk of court at the courthouse where your order was entered. Take the child support order with you. You need to apply for contempt of court on the court order for child support that you have. There should be forms available for contempt of court (motion and order to show cause). These forms are also online at www.nccourts.org with the search query of “pro se” (acting without an attorney) along with the directions.
The court will likely order all of your back child support and will make some decision about the father’s failure to provide health insurance and uninsured medicals. The court will also likely order that all arrearages be paid through Child Support Centralized Collections. If the father is employed where he receives a wage, the back child support will be wage-withheld. You also should be entitled to an attorney fee award, if you want to try to hire an attorney, although most attorneys will want some retainer.
The service fee for the sheriff to serve the motion and order to show cause is $30, which the court should make the father pay back to you.
These are important steps, and I ask that you not delay for the sake of your son. He is due the support from his father. He is suffering.
As long as you told the truth on the Medicaid application, you should be OK. The father may not. Let the judge take care of this father.
The holiday season is here again, and the devil rears his ugly head with my husband’s alcohol issues. His problem is bad enough on a daily basis, but the holiday parties and dinners tip the scales over to the intolerable range. Frequently, my husband cannot even remember what happened at a party, but he seemed to be fully participating in what was going on. What are your suggestions, Carolyn?
Carolyn Answers …
I believe that your husband is “blacking out.” Blackouts are a big, big red flag that a person has a problem with alcohol. During a blackout, the person actually functions. The person can talk to others, but has no memory. The next morning, the person has no recollection of what he said or did. If use of alcohol is regularly creating blackout, then there is an addiction issue.
What can a spouse do? (1) You need to be a mirror, and be honest with your husband. He may lie, but you need to be honest. (2) Do not walk on egg shells or keep secrets (cover up). (3) Be very clear about where the boundaries are. Tell him what you will and will not accept in his conduct. (4) You probably should talk to a professional addiction specialist yourself. (5) In the end, he has to get a grip for himself.
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Note that answers are intended to provide general legal information and are not specific legal advice for your situation. The column also uses hypothetical questions. A subtle fact in your unique case may determine the legal advice you need. Also, please note that you are not creating an attorney-client relationship with Carolyn J. Woodruff by writing or having your question answered by Ask Carolyn.