Claudette-Jean Girard, Attorney at Law
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Family Law Attorney

I provide experienced legal guidance in family law, divorce and special education law. I represent parents and families throughout western Massachusetts.

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Unpaid child support plagues vocal politician

Unpaid child support is a significant problem here in Massachusetts and elsewhere. Expenses for raising a child seem to increase every year, and a growing number of parents with primary physical custody rely heavily on child support payments to help provide for their children.

Some non-custodial parents may qualify for child support modification if they have experienced a substantial change in circumstances. Otherwise, the payments are due as ordered, and there are a variety of enforcement alternatives.

But what happens when a person stops paying as ordered, particularly when no modification has been requested, let alone granted? And what happens if that person turns out to be a public figure, no less than a U.S. Congressman?

This is the issue now under debate in Chicago. A congressman, elected last year on a platform of curbing spending and forcing the government to live within its means, is being sued for over $115,000 in back child support.

The congressman claims it is all a vendetta against him, knowingly leveled as he and others are wrestling with the national debt ceiling crisis. His ex-wife's petition was released last week. In it, she claims her ex-husband paid only limited child support between November of 2005 and March of 2008. After March of 2008 he paid nothing. He currently earns $174,000 annually as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The politician's lawyer says the ex-wife's petition is "unfounded," though he provides no details for that statement other than arguing his client owes far less than what is claimed. According to court documents, the ex-wife seeks a "restraining" order against the representative's assets until he pays up, along with suspension of his driver's license and a full accounting of his assets since the divorce eight years ago. The court will soon hear the matter, and the media will no doubt keep us well informed.

Collecting child support arrears is often no easy matter. Even with laws and mechanisms in place to help, problems remain. People who do not want to pay, whatever their reason, continually devise means to avoid responsibility. An attorney experienced in child support enforcement in Massachusetts may offer some solace and assistance to those seeking to get what they were promised.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Joe Walsh Child Support: Wife Laura's Court Filing Released," July 29, 2011

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