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Midwest court ruling favors delinquent dad in child support case

Many Rhode Island parents either pay or receive financial support from a former spouse or partner to help with the upbringing of a child. However, sometimes meeting these financial obligations can prove to be a huge burden. There are people in Rhode Island and other parts of the country end up as child-support delinquents and must face consequences that can include jail time. Not all of these people, however, are deliberately shying away from their financial obligations. Sometimes, life's changing circumstances force them to do so.

In an interesting ruling in Minnesota, the State Supreme Court ruled that a man who did not pay court-ordered child support for years could not be criminally punished because there was no proof he did not care for them, a 4-3 ruling that hinged on the court's interpretation of a "care and support" clause in the state's law governing child support. One dissenting judge said the ruling would make that state the only one in the country that does not hold deadbeat parents criminally accountable for violating a child-support enforcement order.

The 64-year-old man reportedly owed almost $83,500 for 11 years of unpaid child support for his two children, who are now adults. He was convicted of a felony 3 years ago under state law. The man challenged the conviction, saying that the state failed to prove he did not care for his children even though he did not pay the money. Prosecutors argued that "care and support" referred solely to financial obligations.

Any Rhode Island parent who cannot afford to pay child support for some legitimate reason should consult a family law attorney who may be able to assist in the child support modification process and get a change in the support agreement that keeps him or her from being identified as delinquent.

Source: Star Tribune, "Court ruling hobbles prosecution for unpaid child support," Aby Simons, Feb. 12, 2014

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