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Can a person with a trust fund be found in contempt for not paying court-ordered child support?

Tillamook, OR |

She lives in Washington state and I live in Oregon with our children, she owes over $16,000.00 dollars in child support. She has a job plus her trust fund, and has never made a payment. Can I file contempt of court charges because she won't pay??

Attorney Answers 3

Posted

Yes if you have a court order for payment you can go to the State Support Enforcement agency :

http://oregonchildsupport.gov/services/enforcement.shtml

they can help you file an interstate petition. As to what effect the trust fund will have depends on who controls it and what she gets from it. It may be evidence that she has resources so be certain to tell the enforcement officer about it.

Interstate enforcement has a very good track record of getting people to pay. Not in every case, but from what I have seen the system works well, but it does often take time since setting up hearings and coordinating the laws of the different states can be time consuming for the courts involved.

Good luck

Attorney Bruce S. Gordon is an experienced Divorce and Family attorney and mediator, 203.. 259 . 1100 This not legal advice which can only be given after a full disclosure and discussion regarding your particular situation. Any answer or comment by the attorney des not create an attorney client relationship and is not protected by privelege.

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Posted

It depends. You cannot actually file a criminal contempt charge; that is the purview of the district attorney. You could certainly pursue civil contempt against her, but this is often a waste of time because there really isn't an effective remedy. Even whether a court would find her in contempt of the court's order depends on more specific facts than you've given here.

What you're really looking for, it seems, is an effective enforcement remedy based on the fact that the mother has a trust fund. There might be, but it depends. What benefit does she derive from this fund? Does she have access to the corpus, or body, of the trust (i.e., the bulk of the funds)? Or does she only have access to an income stream? Both? Neither? If she only gets an income, and cannot access the rest without the permission of the trustee, the court could certainly send a wage withholding order to the trustee; if no income, this cannot be done. In either case, a garnishment is possible. It gets more complicated if the trust is primarily located in a different state, in which case the out-of-state financial institution would have to be pursued by the state in which it is located, and a request for interstate enforcement would be made by Oregon's child support enforcement agency.

Getting back to the original question: if her income is so low that she would have trouble paying the child support - even with an income stream from the trust - she might not be found in contempt of the court's order if she has no access to the corpus. It is also possible (on the facts given) that she has no access to the trust at all at this point, or even that anything is presently in it. Your first step here should really be to pursue enforcement through Oregon's child support agency, as it is more likely to have a positive result than hiring an attorney to pursue a civil contempt.

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Posted

Your question would probably require a court to review the terms of the trust she collects funds from. The court would likely need to determine the intent of the trust for its payments to her. Further, you do not state where the cild support judgment was entered, Oregon or Washington. The laws of that jurisdiction will control.

As for her income from her job, that would certainly be collectable against for the children. Have you filed a complaint with the controlling jurisdiction's child support enforcement division? They may bring an enforcement action for you, against her, and potentially start a garnishment on her employment income.

Nothing in this communication should be construed as creating an attorney client relationship. This is for informational purposes only. Attorney will take no action on your behalf unless and until a written retainer agreement is signed. There are strict time deadlines on filing claims and, as such, you are advised to consult with and retain an attorney immediately to file such claims timely or you will lose any right to recovery.

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