Editor’s note: This is the first answer in our new “Ask a Lawyer” column series with Hermiston attorney Blaine Clooten of Clooten Law. To submit questions for future columns, email editor@hermistonherald.com.

Question: How do I go about collecting back child support when he lives in Canada and I can’t afford a lawyer?

I really need a bit more information, like is there a current order, and if so, when it was put in place? But generally, you can go to the Division of Child Support’s website (www.doj.state.or.us/child-support/apply-for-support/how-to-apply-for-child-support-services/) and file an application for child support if it is a new case.

DCS will have to serve him in Canada, which should be doable if they can find him or if he has an actual address. If there is already an order in place, then you can contact the local DCS office (Child Support Services, 216 SE Fourth St. in Pendleton, 541-278-6280) to get in contact with the case manager and to talk about enforcement.

Essentially, if he went off to hide in Canada and is working under the table, it is going to be very difficult to get the back child support. Also, the Circuit Court can only back date child support from the time of filing, so you are not going to get five years’ worth of child support if you have not yet filed. This is the general policy of the court. Finally, a moving party must keep in mind that if they seek child support, the other party’s paternity must be established if it has not already, which will give the other parent the right to move (ask) for parenting time, and even custody through circuit court. DCS cannot award custody of the child to one or the other party.

The way that child support is enforced if the paying party refuses to pay is by garnishing wages and suspending a driver’s license. If the other party is not working or doesn’t drive, then it will be difficult. The other question is whether or not the other party is a citizen of Canada, which will raise jurisdictional questions regarding the enforcement. My guess is that it wouldn’t be the first time the child support enforcement Deputy District Attorney has dealt with this question, and so starting with calling DCS would be the best course of action.

Your inquiry does not create an attorney-client relationship and any confidential information shared with Clooten Law in your inquiry will not be protected as confidential. For additional disclosures and/or more information about us, or our office, please visit oregonlegalfirm.com.

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