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America's gig economy and delinquent child support

Child support is relatively straightforward in New York. The court applies a standard formula to the combined total of parental income and assets to set respective amounts of child support. While both parents usually share physical custody, children often live with one parent most of the time and receive visits or weekend and vacation care from the other parent.

Parents' child support should pay for the children's education, medical insurance, any special care for a child with a disability, clothing, school supplies and entertainment. The person who sees the children less often usually gives his or her child support share to the primary caretaker.

Determining parental assets for child support

Over the last decade, the employment landscape has been slowly morphing into new terrain. People continue to work at traditional jobs, but many take on consecutive freelance jobs called gigs or side-hustles to support their families. The two largest gig worker groups are millennials and retired workers who cannot live on Social Security alone.

The gig economy is helpful for people who need to plug gaps in their income, but some workers find they are more successful working on their own. They quit their traditional jobs, and their side jobs become their primary source of income.

Collecting child support from a delinquent ex-spouse

A hot topic among federal and state child support divisions involves the development of creative methods to extract child support from contingent workers who fail to report income.     

One notorious case involved an angry mother who showed up at the Drug Enforcement Administration to "out" her ex-husband's side-hustle. He had never paid a dime in child support but was raking in millions of dollars as a drug trafficker. The DEA used the woman's information to cast a wide net. They caught her former spouse along with enough top players to bring down a world-famous drug cartel.

Problems occur with freelance jobs because they often do not leave a paper trail. No one is taking taxes from a worker's pay. It is difficult or impossible to track the money. If one parent in a divorce hides side job income, the other spouse is forced to pay more than their share of child support. If an honest spouse tries to collect back child support payments, the dishonest spouse can pretend to be unemployed or merely report a fraction of real income.

Although it can be challenging to prove gig funds exist, professionals in income evasion are aware of effective ways to trace missing funds. Divorcing spouses should trust but verify that the other parent is not hiding significant income or assets that would leave a long-term negative impact on his or her child support obligation.

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