Ask A Divorce Lawyer: Can my ex take my state and federal income tax returns for back support?

Question: 

I owe a little over $60,000 in back support to my ex-wife. This is from an order stating all of that money was unallocated support. We have since been back to court and the judge ordered I pay $10 a week towards the arrearages in addition to the new order that is now broken down into child support and alimony.

My ex is now trying to take both my state and federal income tax returns and the letter I received today is saying the entire amount is for child support. Can this be done even when the money owed is 100% unallocated and the judge has already ordered me to pay money weekly towards the arrears?

 

 
Answer:

 

Although I am licensed to practice law in Michigan and do handle child support cases, I strongly encourage you to consult with an attorney in your state because I can only give you general information. You should not rely upon this information as creating an attorney-client relationship, and you should seek counsel in your area for further instructions and suggestions within the parameters of the laws of your state.

That being said, there are common themes in child support cases among states, one of which is that the state can intercept a parent’s income tax return to satisfy child support arrears. The same is true for spousal support arrears if the state monitors spousal support payments and/or the payee spouse obtained a money judgment for the arrears.

I cannot discern from your question who wrote your letter and what the purpose of it is (other than to provide you notice of the interception), but if you have questions about it or you think it is inaccurate, you need to contact the sender immediately. Be sure that the amount intercepted is properly reflected on your outstanding arrears – you do not want to pay the same support twice! Although most states restrict the extent you can retroactively modify your support obligations, support is usually modifiable if the payor’s financial circumstances change (e.g., if you lose your job).

However, the court may impute income, such as minimum wage, or may determine that the payor is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed and impute more. The modification and imputation criteria vary by state. You should consult with an attorney in your area to discuss what options, if any, you have based on the particular orders and facts in your case.

 

Jennifer M. Paine is an Associate Attorney in the Detroit, Michigan office of Cordell & Cordell P.C. She is licensed to practice in Michigan, and has been admitted pro hac vice in Illinois, Ohio, and the United States Court of Federal Claims. Ms. Paine received her BA in English and Mathematics from Albion College and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She received her Juris Doctorate from MSU College of Law and graduated Summa Cum Laude.

 

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