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The 'gig' economy makes it harder to collect child support

More and more people are working as independent contractors -- or significantly supplementing their income through what is becoming known as the "gig" economy.

People take all sorts of jobs online and off -- tutoring students for the SATs, giving music lessons, driving for Uber or Lyft, or renting their spare rooms out through Airbnb. Others pick up side income by hiring themselves out as common laborers -- housekeepers, yard work, dog watching and other personal services that help the 9-to-5 workers maintain their households.

Frankly, the old methods of collecting child support simply don't work when someone may be working two or three different "gigs" to make up most or all of their income. A lot of money that should be going to the children of those workers simply isn't.

There are several problems the new working economy -- which genuinely seems to be a trend that will continue to develop and expand in the future -- when it comes to child support collection:

  • Most child support -- around 70 percent --is collected through automatic withholding. It's difficult to do that if the employer won't cooperate.
  • Employers like Uber and Airbnb don't see "gig" workers as regular employees. They only feel bound to oblige automatic withholding for regularly paid full-time and part-time workers. Otherwise, it creates a drain on their resources to track it all.
  • Many independent contractors or gig workers collect payment from so many sources that it isn't easy to uncover them all -- especially if the worker doesn't want to admit to them.

Really, this is an old problem with a modern twist. In the past, people intent on evading child support payments used to have to look around for an employer willing to pay them "under the table" either fully or partially so that they could skirt their support obligation. Now, since the gig worker has gone legit and is considered a more normal form of employment -- especially in urban areas -- those parents who have adaptable skills find it easy to evade their true support obligation.

If you feel that your child's other parent is hiding income to avoid child support, there are ways to get the court to order a higher payment. However, it usually takes legal help and some complex investigative work to help the court make the assessment.

Source: Huffington Post, "Gig Economy Gives Child Support Scofflaws A Place To Hide," Jen Fifield, Dec. 01, 2017

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