Dear Prudence

Help! How Do I Get Him to Pay More Child Support if His Income Is “Not Exactly Legal”?

Dear Prudence answers more of your questions—only for Slate Plus members.

Help! How Do I Get Him to Pay More Child Support If His Income Is "Not Exactly Legal"?
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Every week, Mallory Ortberg answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.

Q. Child support: I have a tricky situation on my hands. I need to have the monthly child support that my ex pays raised to cover an increase in my cost of living expenses and the rising cost of health insurance. Also, I know that he is making more money now than when we went to court (at that time he lied about his work to try to get out of paying any money at all). I tried to approach him first, but it devolved into a pretty nasty fight where he started to get physical with me again, so I dropped it altogether. I was going to just go to court, but he says his income is “not exactly legal” and that if I go to court they will investigate him and it will ultimately “get him arrested.”

If he is arrested, I will get zero child support. I also know him to be a liar and manipulator. I can’t afford to go back to my attorney (I am still paying him for previous work, and just a phone call would incur more legal fees that I can’t afford). Should I bite the potential bullet and just file the papers? Is there another resource that I can consult that I’m not thinking of? What would you do?

A: File the paperwork. That’s money your child is entitled to and that you need in order to survive as a single parent. I am very much not a lawyer, but courts do bear in mind what’s in the best interest of the child and don’t usually turn to imprisonment as the first option when it comes to collecting child support. It’s likelier that they would first garnish his wages. If you can’t afford to consult your own lawyer first, you can look up the child support laws in your own state and get a sense of what options and resources are available to you before filing.