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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

U.S. v. Fuller - Failure to Pay Child Support Results in Severe Consequences

The criminal conviction of a deadbeat dad was recently upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, where the defendant in U.S. v. Fuller was ordered to pay $54,000 in restitution to the mother of his three (now-grown) children and serve time on probation.

New York City child support attorneys understand that this was the conclusion of a years-long effort to find this man and collect. We are dedicated to ensuring our clients won't have to endure such an ordeal, and that payments can be secured in a timely manner, while the children are still minors and can benefit from those payments - which is the whole point of child support.

One of the most common actions taken against parents who don't pay child support in New York is a contempt proceeding, initiated by the parent to whom the money is owed. These are among the few instances in civil cases where a person can be ordered to serve time in jail. Incarceration can be ordered for an indefinite period until payment is made. The non-paying parent could also be sentenced to a jail term as punishment for failure to comply with the court's earlier orders.

The key to successfully pursuing this option is to prove the non-paying parent has the ability to pay and has willfully failed to do so. The non-paying parent could have a successful defense if he or she can show that they legitimately did not have the ability to pay.

In some cases, the court may find that a parent's lack of a job isn't an excuse. If the court finds the non-paying parent willfully avoided gainful employment, he or she could still be held in contempt.

In pursuing claims against a non-paying parent who lives out-of-state, it's important to understand that the federal Uniform Interstate Family Support Act gives sole jurisdiction to the court in which the child support order was issued.

Additional federal legislation - including the Child Support Recovery Act and the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act - allow for additional penalties for parents who refuse to pay.

It was under these acts that the defendant in the Fuller case was prosecuted.

According to court records, the couple met in the late-1970s when they both worked at an aviation parts supplier. The two married, divorced and then married again by 1983. Over the course of the next 10 years, the couple had three children.

During this time, the husband quit his aviation parts job to work full-time as a musician. This became a spot of contention in the marriage, as his earnings were meager and there were difficult financial realities involved in providing for three children. The wife would later say that while she believed her husband was talented, he had chosen his music over his children because he refused to get a "real" job, while she worked full-time and had to place the children in daycare.

Eventually, the pair divorced. The husband did not attend any of the hearings, but was ordered to pay a little less than $400 a month in child support. 

He did not. While the wife worked full time, put herself through college and raised the children on her own, the husband sporadically made payments, but none of any significance and never with regularity.

In 1996, the mother sought help in enforcing the child support order, but was deterred by the fees.

More than a decade later, the federal government pursued criminal action against the father. The court called to testify his ex-wife, as well as several club owners who had paid him to perform and child support personnel who had for years attempted to locate him and make him pay.

During trial, the father argued that the government's evidence had shown, at most, that he had only earned $5,200 over the course of 17 years (when the child support order was in effect), and that he lacked any ability to pay.

The court rejected this theory, convicted him and ordered him to serve five years of probation and pay $54,000 in restitution to his ex-wife.

He appealed, but the federal appellate court affirmed the earlier verdict.

If you are seeking enforcement of a child support order New York City, call our offices at (718) 864-2011.

Additional Resources:

U.S. v. Fuller, May 13, 2014, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

More Blog Entries:

Brooklyn Child Custody Cases Can be Impacted by Drug Abuse, May 20, 2014, New York City Child Support Attorneys


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