The age old problem of enforcing a parental duty of support for children has evolved in recent years from a burdensome and often futile effort into a very successful process because of some very sharp extra-judicial teeth. Denial of a driver’s license or a hunting or fishing license, federal interception of tax refunds, rejection of an original or a renewal application for a passport, and the denial of certain business and professional permits all produce more compliance with support orders than do threats of legal action and even jail time. In a change of seismic proportions, society has effectively declared that the failure to provide support for one’s children is simply unacceptable.
In In re Marriage of Saputo, 363 Ill.App.3d 1011, 845 N.E.2d 901 (1st Dist. 2006), the Appellate Court of Illinois held that, like murder, there is no statute of limitations for an action seeking to collect unpaid child support and interest totaling $375,350, covering an obligation that began accruing at the rate of $30 a week at the time of the divorce in 1966.
Thirty dollars a week. How could such a paltry sum grow 10,000 times to $375,000?
The answer is in the 2006 amendment to Section 505 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, which provides for the calculation and imposition of simple (not compound) interest at 9% per year on all unpaid child support. Couple this with the awesome strides made in the ability to locate missing persons by computer search technology and the obvious conclusion is that it is now nearly impossible for a derelict parent to escape the obligation to support his or her children-even dying cannot stay collection efforts against a support obligor’s estate assets. As a result, those parents who have been financially cheated may well have significant prospects for recovery from their former spouse years after the fact, particularly where the deadbeat has gone on to build assets of some significance. Unquestionably, some of those assets resulted because the children were being shortchanged.
Finally, these support collection cases may be accepted by attorneys on a contingent fee basis, which means that, aside from paying the cost of filing the initial petition, parents who have been cheated out of court-ordered child support for years can proceed to collect all the unpaid support plus interest even though their own resources are limited.
Article originally appeared in Chicago Lawyer published by the Law Bulletin Company, and adapted by Sarane C. Siewerth