My ex wife and I divorced in 2002 while we lived in Maryland. We have shared custody of our 2 children, so I was told I was not required to pay child support. I gave her money for the kids whenever she asked and saw my kids as much as I could.
Then my wife disappeared with my children leaving me no information as to their whereabouts. Suddenly, at the end of last year she contacted me in a letter asking for child support.
I checked my divorce papers and they don’t have anything in there about child support. My understanding was that as long as our custody was still 50/50 I wouldn’t have to pay child support. I have requested the transcript from the divorce proceedings. Would she need to modify the custody agreement first? Can she actually modify it when she was the one who moved my kids away from me?
Until there is a court order to pay a specific amount in child support, you can not be sanctioned or punished for failure to pay a specific amount, but you still have a general obligation to support your children although the dollar amount is not set. Your question states that the divorce did not address child support, which is significantly different than the divorce judgment specifically stating that due to the split custody neither party shall pay child support. You will need to have the court documents and any hearing transcripts reviewed by a qualified family law attorney to determine the current child support status and issues.
The lack of your 2002 divorce addressing child support does not preclude her from seeking child support now. The current circumstances will determine what, if any, support obligation will be established. The setting and re-setting of child support is an ongoing process and governed by the laws of the state in which you were divorced unless you both relocate to a different state that has appropriate jurisdiction to address the support issue. She may have to commence legal proceedings in your state to obtain court ordered child support. You should consult with an experienced family law attorney as to the jurisdictional issues if neither of you still resides in Maryland, as the formulas for child support and the court proceedings vary by state and you should not submit to litigation where she is now living if it would be disadvantageous to you.
The more critical issue raised by your question is her disappearance with your children and whether you should be pursuing custody of your children in light of her conduct. While her disappearance with the children does not relieve you of your obligation to support your children, it does raise significant issues as to her fitness as a parent. You should review the custody issues with your attorney for obtaining custody or at least making a court record of her conduct in the event the conduct recurs and you need to enlist the court in helping you find your children in the future.
Richard Coffee is a Litigation Manager in the Belleville Illinois office of Cordell & Cordell. He is an experienced divorce attorney whose practice is devoted to domestic litigation. He is licensed in the State of Illinois and is admitted to practice law in the U.S. District Courts for Northern, Central and Southern Illinois.
Mr. Coffee has extensive domestic litigation trial experience representing clients in courts throughout Illinois on all aspects of domestic litigation, including the representation of clients who are current or retired military personnel with issues under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act and the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, clients involved in state court jurisdictional disputes due to the relocation of one or both parties from or to Illinois, and clients with government or private pension benefit valuation and division issues.