Q: My ex has a serious gambling issue and disappeared about six months ago. He stopped paying child support, stopped calling our son and more recently stopped answering my calls. I assume he is hiding out somewhere on account of owing someone a ton of money again. But, at this point, he also owes me a lot of money that I need if I am going to be able to stay in our pricey town until next June so our son can graduate. I know I can file a complaint for contempt but I don’t know where he is currently staying.
If I file a contempt, what do I use as his address and what can the judge really do to help me find him and collect?
A: As far as his address goes, use his last known address on the form. Then file a motion with the court asking for alternative service because you believe he is no longer staying there. Ask the judge to order him served at his known email address(es) and by text or Whatsapp messenger or any other private social media messaging apps you have used to communicate with him. The motion should be allowed, albeit you may also have to arrange for him to be served at his last known address.
When the time comes for the hearing on your contempt bring the court printouts of all service attempts you have made. If he does not appear, try to contact him that morning. If you cannot reach him, report back to the court and ask to have a capias issued for his arrest. The judge has the power to issue a warrant for his arrest and to have the police attempt to arrest him.
The judge will likely set a second hearing date. If he still does not show up and the police have been unable to find him, you should ask the judge to enter a judgment of contempt finding that he owes full support for the last six months. You should add to your request any legal fees you pay in connection with the contempt, any costs for serving him and interest, all of which the judge has the power to order. You can also ask that the arrest warrant remain in place in case he is located so he can be brought before the court, at which time he will be ordered to pay at least some of his arrears to be released. If he evades arrest for a year, this can be evidence in a criminal non-support action if you go that route.
While all of these options will punish your ex if he is found, they do not necessarily put money in your pocket for your son. If your ex has family who love your son, another option is to appeal to them for help — maybe someone will step up and do the right thing.
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