Relationship Connection: Should I pursue back child support and alimony after almost 30 years?

Child Support
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Question

My divorce was over 27 years ago. My ex-husband paid very little child support or alimony. My current husband paid for my children’s college, weddings, taxes I owed from my previous marriage and even loans my ex-husband had borrowed from my parents and other family members.

He has never been able to hold down a job but is now employed by my son-in-law. My children are grown and have children of their own now. I am retired and have a wonderful life. However, it still bothers me that he never had to be financially responsible when it came to me or our children.

I have always encouraged our children to have a relationship with him, which some of them do. I still have to be around him and his new family at family gatherings.

So the questions are: After so many years, should I pursue getting the back child support and alimony I never received? Will this affect my relationship with my children if I do? Should I consult my children about pursuing this? Or should I just forget the past?

Answer

This is certainly a painful story of one man’s failure to take care of his financial obligations to his ex-wife and children. It makes sense that you would want some type of accountability and closure from years of struggle to make it on your own without his support. Regardless of whether you seek financial restitution, you carry a heavy burden and need relief.

I’m not an attorney, so I can’t give you legal counsel about your options. However, if you do a cursory internet search on collecting back child support and alimony, it appears that most states have statutes of limitations around enforcement of collecting unpaid child support. Depending on your state, you may not have legal recourse, even if you decided to pursue that option. Of course, you can always check with a qualified attorney to explore your options.

Sometimes it can help to even start the conversation to know that you’ve exercised every option to get closure. Regardless of what’s legally possible or what he’ll agree to do, you can still know that you used your voice to create accountability. You pursuing back payment for child support has nothing to do with your children’s relationship with him. They should be able to separate their relationship with him and your relationship with him.

I have no idea how complicated or expensive it would be to recover any money from your ex-husband. As you already know, you can only take so much of the emotional and physical toll of trying to get someone to face reality. He’s made it clear that he has no intentions of fulfilling his financial obligations. While I certainly advocate for justice and fairness, you’ll want to measure the personal cost of trying to hold him financially and emotionally accountable.

It appears that you’re seeking more than just financial restitution, correct? You mentioned that you’ve created a wonderful life despite frustrating odds. You’re worried about the impact on your children, but as you consider the impact this has already had on you, what will change with your current life if you turn your focus back to your ex-husband’s delinquency? Thirty years is enough time to know the truth about your ex-husband. It’s hard to know if your efforts would produce anything more satisfying than the life you’ve already created.

You appear to have a good life now and it would be a tragedy for you to disrupt it with a crusade to restore something that may never be resolved. You’ve suffered enough, and it’s important for you to enjoy the relationships with your children without burdening them with the crimes of their father. Neither your ex-husband or your children can restore the peace you seek. Please carefully consider if it’s worth the emotional and physical toll to pursue this. You are safe and secure, and it’s important to protect the life you’ve built.

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

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