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New York family laws accommodate changes in society

New laws and law modifications usually occur following societal changes. Laws that seemed perfectly acceptable 50 years ago, even 10 years ago, may not fit well in today's culture. The pace of change is faster in society than it is in the legal system since laws reflect behavior patterns already in place.

At one time, in New York State's not too distant past, spouses had to accuse partners of inappropriate behavior to divorce. Family law courts still accept grounds for divorce like adultery, cruel treatment and abandonment. With the advent of no-fault divorce, spouses found a new exit from unhappy marriages without employing blame.

Family structures have changed significantly in the last few decades. Children are raised by married and unmarried couples, blended families and single parents. Child support needs have not changed, although the way laws address the issue has.

Parents are obligated to support their children financially whether or not a marriage or unmarried relationship lasts. States enforce support orders when parental responsibility fails.

How courts approach past-due child support is changing. At one time, all parents who failed to stay current with child support were considered "deadbeats." Judges now understand that some parents are unable not unwilling to pay due to extraordinary circumstances like income changes, unexpected joblessness or medical problems.

There are still clear-cut cases of child support evasion. A wealthy ex-New York resident recently admitted he fled the country to avoid a $1 million child support obligation. A federal judge ordered the man to pay off about $900,000 of the back bill and spend more than two years in prison.

Imprisonment is drastic. Incarcerated parents cannot earn income to pay support. Alternately, states recover support through garnished wages, liens and tax refunds. Driver's license suspensions also encourage payment.

Child support laws have evolved, but legal advisers know a common thread remains--children's needs are priorities which parents must provide.

Source:  nytimes.com, "2-Year Term for a Father Who Avoided Child Support" Mosi Secret, May. 21, 2013

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