Child support arrears from another state, new TDIU award

Question:

I am a Marine veteran.100% P&T unemployable because of PTSD . I got out in 1992 with an OTH discharge because of a DUI on base.I was drinking to cope with the nightmares and flashbacks etc... I struggled with alcohol,drugs ,homelessness, jail. I had 3 kids with my 3rd wife but after a drug binge I was thrown in jail, lost my job and my wife filed for divorce. (1999) I only had part time work if any during the following 15 years. And occasionally my wages would be garnished for child support by the Los Angeles child support office. I'd never seen a judge or gotten served but somehow my ex convinced them I should pay $1000 dollars a month. Long story short, I remarried and have five sons (still no job) and I owe $149,000 in arrears. Even though my total earnings has only been less than $20,000, California has taken over $37,000 dollars from garnished wages and my wife's tax returns. I was finally granted service connection in 2015 and I was just granted TDIU this month. I live in Washington state with my wife and 5 boys. I can't get a driver's license because California has a hold on my license.We live in a tiny apartment that the housing authority helps me afford. I want to buy a house but I'm afraid California will somehow swipe it out from under me. What can I do? I'm afraid to even call child support because I don.t want to "admit" guilt. Any advice?

Jim's Reply:

Child support obligations are forever. I've seen cases in the press in recent times that tell us of a father being sued many years after the children have reached majority because they didn't pay what they owed 20 or more years ago. When you tell me that you'd never been served or seen a judge, I can only guess that you missed hearings because of your substance abuse and lifestyle. When we miss legal proceedings, the court often defaults to whatever seems reasonable and if we ever want that corrected, we have to return to the court and ask for modifications to earlier rulings. Now that you have a substantial disability income from VA, your ex can petition VA to apportion (similar to garnishment) a percentage of your monetary award to make up arrearages. To be honest, I don't see buying a house in your near future. Unless you've upgraded the OTH to fully honorable, you're not eligible for the VA loan guarantee benefit. You have a lot of work to do first and trying to settle up and be rid of all the past obligations is first on the list.