What is the Bradley Amendment of 1986?

Instructor: Ian Lord

Ian has an MBA and is a real estate investor, former health professions educator, and Air Force veteran.

In this lesson, we will look at how the Bradley Amendment of 1986 helps ensure delinquent child support payments can be obtained, as well as some of the controversy surrounding the implementation of the law.

Child Support Obligation

Tina has sole custody of her two daughters following her divorce from Ron. As part of the divorce, Ron was ordered to pay child support until the children turn 18 years old.

Last year, Ron stopped paying child support altogether and now owes Tina over $10,000. Ron has since moved to another state. He is now trying to avoid paying this debt, claiming that his income is less than it was. Ron is now subject to the provisions of the Bradley Amendment, which was intended to help protect custodial parents and ensure that child support payments are made.

Let's take a look at how this law works, along with some of the controversy that has come out of it.

The Bradley Amendment

The Bradley Amendment of 1986 can be found as public law code 42 U.S.C. § 666(a)(9)(c) and is defined as the ''Requirement of statutorily prescribed procedures to improve the effectiveness of child support enforcement.'' It was sponsored by Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey and passed by Congress as part of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986. The law says that child support payments cannot be retroactively modified by the state or any other state.

So what does this all mean for Ron? By not paying his child support as ordered and on time, Ron now has a past-due lien placed against him. With the lien, the child support authorities can come after his bank accounts and personal property such as his car in order to satisfy the debt. The retroactive modification by the state rule means that he can't declare bankruptcy to avoid paying what he owes Tina. Even if he lost his job, became disabled, or took a pay cut, he would have to pay what is outlined in the court orders.

Tina does have the option of forgiving the debt, but she isn't legally obligated to do so, even if Ron has legitimate financial issues and isn't avoiding the payments out of spite. There is a mechanism for the child support-owing parent to report a loss of income, but it must be done immediately to make a legitimate payment adjustment or else the original payments plus interest will apply. When the authorities seize funds from Ron's bank account in order to pay off his debt, the Bradley Amendment has fulfilled its intended purpose.

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