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Surcharges on Unpaid Child Support

San Jose Family Law Attorney comments on the interest and surcharges on unpaid child support driving some parents to bankruptcy and facing jail time.

To cut down on the amount of unpaid child support, many states have enacted provisions that allow for interest and surcharges to be added to delinquent child support accounts. But given the state of the economy and the inability of many to find work, some have lost hope that they will ever be able to get caught up on their child support payments. The threat of jail time is almost like adding insult to injury for those who are facing that prospect.

In 1996 Michigan, like many other states including California, added a provision to charge interest on delinquent child support accounts. But the law did not give judges discretion in applying the penalty to accounts. The law made no distinction between someone who was a deadbeat and refusing to pay their child support and someone who was unable to pay because of job loss or injury.

While child support payments, like other domestic support obligations are not dischargeable in bankruptcy, many parents delinquent in their payments have filed for bankruptcy protection to remove all of their other debts so they can avoid the specter of a felony charge and jail time for not paying child support. With unemployment in the double-digits, there are a growing number of people who have exhausted their unemployment benefits and cannot find work. They fall farther and farther behind in their payments and the interest added on to their account leads them to believe them they will be paying child support for the rest of their lives, once they find a job.

Michigan rules derail child support payments, The Detroit News, December 7, 2009
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