Petition court to modify child support
Question: If the father of a child is in arrears for child support (incarcerated, never married) and is left an inheritance, can the Child Enforcement Agency / other parent collect on the inheritance? If so, what could be done to protect it from a gold digger? Also, if two individuals were never married, and are no longer together, but had a child, what would be the ideal custody plan?
Answer: From Desiree Mokuohai, Legal Aid family attorney: First and foremost, child support is an obligation for the support of children, not the other parent. A custodial parent is not a "gold digger" when attempting to enforce an obligation. Even if a noncustodial parent has had a material change in circumstances (e.g., incarcerated and not earning, unable to work due to a disability), his child support obligation will remain unchanged and continues to accrue (possibly causing an arrearage), unless one of the parents petitions for a modification. To modify child support, the non-custodial parent may petition either Family Court or the Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA). You can make a written request to appear by phone at both Family Court and CSEA hearings.
As to setting up a custody plan: The answer depends on the circumstances of the case. "Physical custody" refers to whom the child lives with most of the time. "Legal custody" refers to decision making powers regarding education, medical treatment, etc. Joint custody means the parents share either "physical custody" (the child lives with each parent about half the time), or "legal custody" (parents make legal decisions regarding the child together). If one parent has sole physical custody, the child lives primarily with that parent, and the other parent has visitation or a time-sharing schedule. Deciding the best plan depends on many factors. You'll have to discuss your child and his/her best interest with the other parent. If you can't agree, you may have to go to mediation or Family Court. But remember: going to court may not necessarily give you the result you seek. It's best when parents can reach an agreement regarding custody and visitation.
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