Courts Do Historically Recognize Equitable Defenses in Child Support Enforcement
Video Transcribed: You might have a defense to child support. My name is Brian L. Jackson. I’m an Oklahoma fathers’ rights attorney with dads.law, where fathers are not disposable. And today I want to talk to you about your equitable defenses in Oklahoma child support enforcement proceedings.
Now, I want to preface this by saying that ideally, you don’t ever want to get into a position where you’re facing a child support proceeding, but if you’re unfortunate enough to find yourself in this position, you should know there may be hope. You may not be found in contempt and you may not be ordered to pay that massive arrearage.
Courts do historically recognize equitable defenses in child support enforcement. What is an equitable defense? Well, essentially it is a defense that’s basically saying this otherwise enforceable child support order may become unenforceable by the party attempting to enforce it because it’s unfair. That’s really what a lot of these doctrines revolve around.
Now, one common one you see in the case history, in the case law, and it’s been around for quite a while. I mean, I researched this recently and there are cases going back 30 years, which is equitable estoppel.
Now, what equitable estoppel basically is it’s a doctrine where if somebody makes a representation to you that they’ll do or forbear from doing something, in other words, they’re going to do something or they’re not going to do something that either they had the right to do or they had the right to refuse to do, and you rely on that representation, that promise, to your detriment, in other words, you rely on it and extend a benefit or you give up a right or you encounter legal exposure you wouldn’t have otherwise had but for that promise, then you can ask a child support enforcement court to decline to enforce that child support order, either by finding you in contempt or by forcing you to pay an arrearage because you relied on her promises and she didn’t follow through.
Now, I would say, number one, don’t just rely on her promises. If you are going to do something other than what’s in the court order, your best bet is while she’s in the giving kind of mood, get a modification going and get it entered as a court order because then you’re not in the position of having to trust her to keep her word. Equitable defenses are a last-ditch defense if you get in a jam because you didn’t modify that order. But the best advice is don’t get in that jam. Modify the order if you can get her to do it.
If you have an agreement, formalize it in order, get a judge to sign it. But if you can’t do that or if it doesn’t happen, sometimes stuff happens and you don’t get that done, then you may have that defense. You want to keep good documentation of what you do.
If you’re deviating from the order by agreement and there’s no court order, keep a record. Seriously, keep a record. If you’re paying, keep a record. If you’re not paying, keep a record. And if she sends you a text, an email, or whatever saying, “Well, you don’t have to pay this month,” or, “I’ll take less than this amount,” keep that and save it, because that could be your defense.
The same thing, for example, well, let’s say that the orders recognize custody in her, and the child’s living with you, and because of that, you’re not paying child support. File a motion to modify. Don’t sit on your hands and sit on your rights.
One, if you don’t do that, she can come back around and try to get the kid back at any time, which sucks. But two, if you’re not paying child support because the kid lives with you, you’re far better off modifying the order so you don’t have to pay child support as opposed to attempting to defend yourself later because she files on you anyway.
And yeah, there are women that are that slimy. I hate to tell you that, but there are. And I’m not saying all women, just like it’s not all men that … Not everybody’s like that, but there are some that certainly are and will eff you over. And it’s when you get crosswise that you can run into that situation.
So for the love of Pete, if the kid’s living with you and it’s not by the schedule, file that motion to modify. Get after that. Yeah, it may cause her to come and take the kid back in the short term. But in the long term, it’s going to save your ass, and it’ll save you money because I’m going to tell you, if you’re arguing these equitable defenses, you’re going to pay someone to argue that.
This is not something you’re going to go do yourself. You’re going to pay somebody to argue that. Now, if you are in a position where you are facing a child support enforcement action, I encourage you, go to dads.law.