My ex-girlfriend and I have not been together for about four years. We've had two children together, now 6 and 7. They both live with me. In fact, she rarely sees the children and I am fine with that. Recently, she started seeing someone new and the $400 she was sending me each month stopped. She tells me that because she doesn't see the kids she shouldn't have to pay for them. I think that is ridiculous because they need food and clothing even if she doesn't see them. What can I do?
Single Dad David
Dear Single Dad,
One common misconception parents have is that child support and visitation are linked. Washington goes to great lengths to sever all relationship between the two.
Some states, such as California, will adjust the amount of child support depending on the number of days a parent has with the children. In contrast, Washington bases the amount of support mostly on the net income of each parent, with some adjustment for certain circumstances.
Payment of child support is something the state takes very seriously. There is an entire division of a state agency devoted to ensuring the cost of raising a child is shared by each parent.
The Department of Social and Health Services is the first place to start in collecting support owed. In fact, if you receive certain types of state assistance, the agency often will automatically pursue collection of child support. However, it is not the only place you can go.
If the amount of child support paid was established by court order, you can seek to have your ex-girlfriend held in contempt of that order. The court can be very persuasive.
I encourage you to seek assistance. The court will not force her to see the children. However, it will do its best to get her to provide for them. Unfortunately, there are many non-custodial parents who decide for whatever selfish reason not to provide for their children. Because of this, the system does not always work as well as it should.
One thing you should never do is retaliate against her by refusing to let her see the children. This is one action that should never be taken, regardless of how much support she owes.
Good luck trying to resolve this problem. I hope you are successful for the welfare of the children.
John Hartzell is a practicing Walla Walla attorney. No attorney-client relationship is established via this column, which is for educational purposes only. Have question? Ask John at firstname.lastname@example.org.