These ideas and procedures detailed here are not intended to assist a delinquent parent evade their support obligation. They are provided as a means to protect parents who do pay child support from honest (and dishonest) mistakes made by child support enforcement agencies. The inaccuracy of child support enforcement agencies bookkeeping practices are legendary. In many cases the numbers bear little, if any, relation to reality.
Countless examples abound where fathers who are current in their support have been erroneously reported to be delinquent. Sometimes the support enforcement agency generates an error all by itself, and in some cases a vengeful ex falsely claims to the support enforcement agency that a father is behind in his support.
The support enforcement agency then moves to take action against the father, often before verifying whether or not there is actually any arrears. This can result in the enforcement agency freezing and/or seizing bank accounts, repossessing vehicles or other "real" property, and in some cases jailing the father.
If the support enforcement agency makes a mistake and "unilaterally attaches" (1) your savings and your bank account, you'll suddenly (and without warning) have no access to money. You'll quickly fall behind on your bills, not to mention the minor inconvenience of not having any money with which to buy food or pay the rent.
Will your children be better off if you end up homeless and destitute, unable to pay any support? We think not. Children are best served by having two involved parents, neither of whom is homeless and living on the streets.
Given the terrible track records of support enforcement agencies, it seems prudent for a parent paying child support to take reasonable measures to ensure that they don't become the victim of an enforcement agency's misplaced zeal or clerical error.
Step One is to protect your savings. Preventing your bank account(s) from being seized or frozen is crucial to your and your children's continued financial security.
Ask your parents or a trusted friend (2) to open a new bank account in their name where you will be authorized to make deposits and write checks. You make the deposits to the account and write checks against it, but your name does not appear on the checks or as the owner or co-owner of the account. Doing this will help ensure that you will have enough money to pay your bills, eat, and keep a roof over your head.
For paying bills without using a checking account, consider money orders. Money orders are available in thousands of locations, and although you'll pay a small premium for the service, money orders are accepted virtually everywhere. Some stores give a small discount if you by several at once, like a set of five $20 dollar money orders. Another nice feature built in to a money order is that you can't "bounce" one like a check.
Step Two is to protect your car ("real" property) from seizure due to a support agency's blunder. Let's face it- without a car it becomes harder to hold a job, shop for groceries, go on job interviews, take your kids to the doctor, etc. If a support enforcement agency takes your car, they've effectively prevented you from carrying out your daily activities, including earning money and providing for yourself and your children.
Make arrangements with your parents or a trusted friend to register your vehicles to them with (of course) the understanding that the vehicle is for your daily use. An enforcement agency cannot seize property from you (like a car) you do not legally own. If it isn't yours, they can't take it from you.
If you have to buy a car, it's best to buy a used car for cash. This way there are no payments to make or keep track of, and no payments to fall behind on, either. Unfortunately, it's more likely that if you buy a car you will have to arrange payments. Most credit companies are hesitant to extend credit to a father who pays child support because they see it as another debt competing for the father's limited funds every month, and they don't like that.
It may be possible to have another person "stand in" for you, credit-wise, either by co-signing the loan or by "buying" the car themselves (with your money for the down payment). Their credit is good, they get the loan, and you make the payments just as you would if you had bought the car.
A Note On Tax Returns: Support enforcement agencies will often attach or intercept your income tax refund in an attempt to make up an arrearage (even if there is no actual arrearage). In most States (possibly all States) filing for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy will prevent support enforcement agencies from attaching or intercepting your income tax refund during the bankruptcy period. (Declaring Chapter 13 bankruptcy is typically used to consolidate debts and get lower interest rates. Declaring Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the procedure that causes creditors to shun you for several years afterwards.) For more information on bankruptcy as it relates to child support, see these web sites:
(1) "Unilaterally attached" means that neither the bank nor the enforcement agency is required to inform you or have your consent before seizing (attaching) your assets.
(2) Current husbands and wives aren't included by default here because some States allow a spouse's assets to be seized. Check to see if your State allows this or not. If they don't and you are remarried, your husband or wife can help keep your savings and/or vehicles from being vulnerable to seizure by an inept or misinformed support enforcement agency.