~ Guest blog by Howard Iken
Just imagine you have been injured and you are physically incapable of working. You cannot work, you may be in pain, and your life has become a dizzying rotation of attorneys, physicians, chiropractors, and pharmacies. In the middle of the biggest crisis in your life comes an official looking envelope in the mail. The envelope contains instructions to show up in court on a past-due child support obligation. As you read through the contents your stomach starts to twist. Because the documents not only insist you show up in court, but also go through a litany of consequences hanging over you. Those consequences include suspension of your driver license, suspension of any trade & professional licenses, and a possible stay in your local jail. You are caught between a rock and a hard place. Because of your injury you cannot work. Because of the threatened consequences you must work. The feeling of unease steadily increases and you wonder what to do.
Just about every state has an established set of laws and public policy concerning child support. Those laws intersect with a federal law that is part of the Social Security Act. That Federal law funds and requires each state to set up a child support enforcement program. The child support enforcement program may go by a slightly different name in each state but they are all known as a Title IV-D agency. That reference points to the federal law that is part of the Social Security Act. Each Title IV-D agency is charged with establishing and enforcing child support for children living in a separated household. The agency’s involvement is usually triggered if one parent applies for state benefits. The Title IV-D agencies usually have ample staff, enormous budgets, and sophisticated computer systems. They look at things as a numbers game and have little empathy for injured parents. And unfortunately, most state laws allow their Title IV-D agency to directly revoke driver and professional licenses. But the most alarming feature of child support enforcement agencies is their ability to bring the situation to court and to seek incarceration of the delinquent parent.
Child support laws do not automatically cut you any slack if you are injured, and unable to work. In just about every child support case you must actively put on a defense against the consequences of overdue support. In other words, if you want to stay out of jail, you must have all the required facts and evidence in place before you go to court. The time to start preparing your child support defense is the moment you get injured and stop working. Nothing about child support is automatic, but you can easily lay the foundation for defending yourself against legal threats. Now is the time to start preparing so you can concentrate on your injury case.
To defend against a delinquent child support case, you must be prepared to prove you had to quit your job, cannot get a job, and that you have an excellent reason for not working. Just about all of your preparation will consist of collecting and organizing documents. You will also need to use your phone and computer to build your case in advance. These simple steps will possibly insulate you from a child support enforcement case:
You had to quit your job:
This step also applies if you were fired for your inability to do the job. If you were employed at the time of your injury, you must prepare and maintain excellent documentation. Ideally you should use a diary to document everything. Collect paperwork showing your job description. Write down names of supervisors, and collect anything in your personnel file. Your new job will be to document the exact timeline that led up to the point where you lost your job. You need to have materials together that show the injury caused your inability to keep a job.
You cannot get a job:
This step will require you to do a bit of legwork. First, sit down with a copy of your medical diagnosis and any work restrictions specified by a health care provider. Then decide what types of jobs match your requirements. Construct a resume with your job experience. One twist on your resume: be really clear that you have a medical issue that has specific work limitations. Then register an account on monster.com or some other online job search. After you have done that, get to work. You need to apply for at least 5 jobs a day through the online service. As you apply for each job, make a screen print that shows the job you just applied for. Get a loose-leaf together and collect all the printouts. Make sure each printout shows the date it was submitted. Now that you are actively applying for jobs, go through the printouts and call each employer approximately 7 days after you submitted your resume. Finally, make a hand-written note on each printout showing the date you called and the results.
You have an excellent reason for not working:
This should be the easiest step of all. Collect all your medical documents. This should include records of exams, prescriptions, insurance letters, and letters from your attorney (discuss this step with your injury attorney). This should be a separate binder. Your job is to collect an overwhelming amount of information that shows the obvious fact: that you are injured.
If you take the time to prepare, you can head off an eventual child support enforcement case. With the proper evidence you can convince most courts that you cannot work, and cannot pay child support. Many courts will refuse to take action against you in a well-documented case. Now is the time to prepare and not wait until that inevitable letter arrives. The cross road of injury and child support does not need to be a devastating experience, A little bit of work now will enable you to keep your mind on your most critical task: to receive compensation, to get medical care, and to finally get back on your feet.