Question: I just got served child support paperwork for a child I haven't seen in 10 years. I paid about $50/week between 2001 and 2002 and then she just up and moved without letting me know. I had no idea where she went and she left no forwarding address. Can she legally ask me for back child support when she left town? I will pay child support going forward (a paternity test will be established first), but I don't think I should pay 10 years worth from the past when she took him away from me.
Reply: If you had an existing child support order through the Rhode Island Family Court you had an obligation to keep paying it. There is virtually always a way to find the mother and the child if you do some investigation. In the very least you should have paid it to the Rhode Island Family Court Child Support Enforcement Department so you would not be in contempt of the court's order to pay continuing support for your child.
If there was, in fact, a child support Order from the Rhode Island Family Court in effect then your child support debt would accumulate interest at a rate of 12%. If you did not have a child support Order issued by the Rhode Island Family Court then the mother of the child is only legally entitled to ask for the court to award her child support retroactive to the date she filed the Motion to Adjudge You In Contempt or to otherwise require you to pay your Rhode Island Child Support Order from the date her Motion for Payment of Child Support was filed. The retroactive part of the Court's award, with or without the 12% interest per annum is in the discretion of the judge. Ultimately the obligation to insure you pay court ordered child support is on you and not the mother of the child.
It does not matter if the mother took off with the child or not. Your Rhode Island visitation rights and your obligation to pay child support for the support of your child are completely separate and distinct. A parent does not pay money for child support in order to have the right to see their child. Also, the money for child support is to support the child, it does not entitle you to see your child. In other words, child support payments and visitation are completely separate.
If there was no Rhode Island Child Support Order ever entered that says you have to pay a certain amount of child support each week, month, or whatever the period may be etc . . . then the mother of the child may only ask the judge to award her Rhode Island child support retroactive to the date her motion was filed and that should be specifically requested in her Motion if she is requesting retroactive child support when no Child Support Order was ever established by the Court. If there was an actual Child Support Order in place and you have not paid child support in 10 years then you should get a lawyer. If a judge were to find you in contempt of an existing Child Support Order it is always possible that you could be sentenced to the Adult Correctional Institution for failure to abide by the court's order among other things.
Unfortunately, whether the woman left with your child or not, if there is Rhode Island Child Support in place then it is your job to protect yourself by, in the least, paying the child support that was ordered to the Rhode Island Child Support Enforcement Division of the Rhode Island Family Court.
If you need further assistance and/or advice, I offer legal advice and coaching sessions relating to each person's specific facts and situation for an affordable rate. Whatever you decide to do,
I wish you the very best in this difficult situation no matter what you decide to do.
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