Should I Use Secular Courts for Child Support?

Morning friends,

I want to give you advance notice about a teleseminar and live-streaming event Chris Moles and I will be hosting next Thursday evening at 8:30 pm ET.  Chris is a pastor as well as a Batterer Intervention Specialist in West Virginia.  He works with abusive men who have been court ordered for treatment. Together we are going to talk about whether or not destructive/abusive people can change and how that change process happens. We will also be answering your questions as time allows. The seminar will be FREE of charge but we will have limited space.  If you’re interested in joining us, click here.

Today’s Question:  I am now separated from my husband. He has carried on affairs for the past 12 or so years of our marriage, even when I suspected and asked, he lied directly to my face and denied it. He has sent other women money, went on vacations with them, and who knows what else. He is also emotionally abusive and very controlling. I chose to get myself and my kids out of that environment until he has proved that I can trust him again.

I have filed for child support and legal separation in order to protect myself and the kids financially (he has not always made wise decisions). The courts have decided on the amount and are going to garnish his paycheck since he hasn't been paying. He is telling me that I am going to bankrupt “us”, and that it is my fault. I believe that he should pay child support, and that if he does lose the house, etc., it is a consequence of his sin. Am I correct?

He is trying to manipulate me and have me believe that I am ruining him and trying to get revenge.  I am trying hard to live as God wants me to, but it’s hard when my husband is always pushing his own agenda on me, and he has the ability to make you doubt your own decisions.

My question is:  Is child support okay to seek as a Christian? He keeps telling me that we shouldn't let the ungodly determine what we do with our family. Thanks.

Answer:  Your husband tells you that you shouldn’t let the ungodly determine what you do with your family – meaning you shouldn’t involve the secular authorities in family affairs. Your husband is twisting the meaning of 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 where Paul encourages believers who are in lawsuits with other believers to settle things without using secular courts. Peacemakers, a Christian organization, has tried to fulfill that mandate so that believers who are in dispute can go before other believers and receive godly counsel and mediation.

However, Peacemakers would not be an appropriate venue to settle your child support dispute for three reasons:

  1. Your husband is a liar and acts like an ungodly person himself. He cannot be trusted to keep his word or mediate fairly or be faithful to carry out the terms of the mediation.
  1. Peacemakers is powerless to hold your husband legally accountable to the terms of the agreement and given his history, he needs accountability with legal teeth in it.
  1. Your children will suffer if they do not get the financial support they are legally entitled to from their father.

In Romans 13:1-7, Paul tells us that God has put secular authorities in place to help protect us against ungodly and evil people.  He writes, “For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong”. …And, “But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing.  He (the government) is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”

Your husband twists the Bible to suit his own selfish purposes. He doesn’t want to pay child support. His strategy is for you to feel guilty involving the secular authorities so that you will rescind the court ordered garnished child support.  Please don’t do that.  If you do it would remove the accountability the courts have set up to ensure that he does pay his child support.

God cares about the welfare of wives and children. Here’s what he says about your husband supporting you and your children. “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”  (1 Timothy 5:8)

Read Exodus 21:10-11.  If a man treated his wife poorly and did not provide food, clothing or love (regularly) it was grounds for divorce.  She could leave the relationship.

Your husband has already demonstrated that he is not trustworthy. He’s lied, he’s cheated, he’s been foolish with money and yet he’s accusing you of ruining him and finances.  You said it well when you said that it’s his own foolish financial decisions that have landed him in his financial quagmire, not your requiring he pay child support.

But deep down you already know the answer to your question, don’t you?   That’s why you’ve separated and filed for child support.   Please don’t allow this ungodly, unfaithful, foolish, deceitful man to influence your thinking for one more moment.

Ladies, this is why it’s so important that you get counsel from wise people and not the foolish, even if they profess to quote or know the Bible. People do influence us and the more we listen to fools, the more muddled we become.  It’s also important that you read God’s word for yourself. See what it says. Don’t let someone take things out of context for you.  Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in all truth, which Jesus says, is one of his main jobs. (John 16:13).

Friends, when you feel confused and muddled and tempted to doubt the course of action you are taking, what do you do to get clarity and wisdom?

Have you heard about the BRAND NEW group coaching program?


This small group coaching program is the culmination of 25 years of private practice and hundreds of hours helping women just like you.


  1. Jenn on July 30, 2014 at 7:27 am

    I go back through and read the scriptures I’ve saved to bring clarity. Just this morning, I confronted my husband about reaching out to another woman offering to discuss her situation–she just found our her boyfriend was cheating on her. MY husband cheated on me and has made my life horrible for five years now.
    I confronted him, and of course he says I’m wrong and that “he wasn’t doing anything.” He’s said our marriage can be salvaged if I do a list he’s given me. I told him I’m sick of the sin he continues bringing into our home to which he replies with what HE thinks I’ve done wrong. My reactions are terrible because I’m so angry with his continued choices. He says I don’t think I’m “ever wrong.”
    I look back over the past five years and think of everything he’s willfully done to me and our daughters-the lies, defending them, defending his family instead if me, cheating, covering it up, and it makes me sick. I look forward to reading what others say about staying strong.
    I told him this morning that I’m not going to allow him to continue bringing his sin into the home while he’s here, and that he can talk with whomever about whatever he chooses when he’s gone. He replied, I’m NOT doing anything!”
    I’m sick over this whole mess.

  2. Brenda on July 30, 2014 at 7:39 am

    When I am feeling confused, I pray, I read scripture (even topical and not just whole books), I talk it out with a Christian friend, reread portion of Leslie’s and Barbara Roberts books and I try as hard as I can to stay away from the author of that confusion, which is not God. More times than not the author of any confusion I have is the X who is well used by the evil one. We are on day 6 of absolutely no contact and I feel more confident and peaceful. We seperated almost 14 months ago and have been divorced since last November, but he still invades my space like a battering ram. If one tactic doesn’t work, he’s on to another.

    As for child support, he owes it to his children to provide for them and depending on where you live alimony for you. My first ex-husband cheated on me for 6 years. I went against the voices around me. The church, friends and family put it on me. “If you would do x,y, or z he wouldn’t be looking for it elsewhere.” Bull. Completely false. He has been married 4 more times and has cheated on everyone of them. It is what he does. We weren’t married long enough for alimony, but he was court ordered to pay child support and keep medical coverage on our 2 children. I finally recieved the remaining balance when my youngest turned 35. Thank you Lord for giving authority to the Friend of the Court, no matter how long it takes.

    To the lady asking the question: Do not listen to a word that the father of your children says. He will say anything to get you to back down so that he can party hardy at your expense. I won’t call him your husband, he doesn’t deserve that title. He was never a husband.

  3. Chuck on July 30, 2014 at 7:41 am

    “He keeps telling me that we shouldn’t let the ungodly determine what we do with our family.” Here’s your clue about what’s going on. It’s an extension of the manipulation and control he’s been using. His refusal to truly repent is what led to the separation AND the need for you to file for child support because his word cannot be trusted. He wants to keep you as dependent upon him as possible and avoid accountability through the courts. Legally, morally and biblically he’s responsible to provide support for you and your dependent children.

  4. Patty on July 30, 2014 at 8:14 am

    Prayer has helped me in many situations when I was overwhelmed with shock, emotions, etc. I have asked God for peace and clarity, etc. One time it was after a violent episode with my ex. I was scared to file charges against him, scared to even enter a police station, not knowing if they would believe me. I called friends, and they were uncertain. I finally asked God to fill me with His supernatural peace and courage if that was what I should do, file charges and get a restraining order against him. The peace came upon me immediately and the courage to go to the police station. All went smoothly. I am not going to say that this happens for me, most of the time but those few times when I was at my bottom and surrendering to God, the Holy Spirit was there! It was definitely a faith builder.
    My mother was married to an adulterer, controller, etc. (my father) and she did not demand child support from my father when they divorced when I was eleven. Part of it was pride on her part. My brother and I suffered for the lack of it. Emotionally too, because we knew our father wasn’t helping with our support. We felt even more abandoned since he didn’t see us much either.
    After my divorce, I tried to have an amiable relationship with the ex and not involve the government in the collection of my child support but he could not be trusted to get it to me on time. then he would have me stopping my his house to collect it or beg for it. turning over the child support to government collection for me was the best thing even if it does take a little longer to get it.

  5. Linda on July 30, 2014 at 9:12 am

    As ever, Leslie, thank you for speaking biblical truth to this whole issue of abuse in all its subtle forms. It’s so wearying to see abusive spouses and pastors twisting the powerful Word of God.

    I think this is some of the most important work you have given us over the years, and I thank you for taking a stand and giving people a clear interpretation of God’s Word, and in the process, offering hope and freedom.

    I continue using your material with my clients, speak of it on my blog, and share it with my counseling colleagues.

    I’m thanking God for you this morning, friend! Warmest blessings …

    • Leslie Vernick on July 30, 2014 at 9:37 am

      Thanks Linda, I appreciate you.

  6. SD on July 30, 2014 at 10:15 am

    I had the same situation with my ex. He just knew we could keep the child support out of the court system. I allowed it, but it didn’t work. He not only didn’t pay he keep me on nerve’s end all of the time over it all. I finally decided my sanity was worth more than that and turned it over to the states. Now, when he tries to push me around or use child support as a threat, I remind him that it is out of my hands so he will need to call the state instead of me. For me it was one of the best things I could have done!

    When things seem confusing and all muddled up, I stand still. I have found that if I pray and seek God as well as wise counsel while standing still for a bit then an answer will come. I try not to make any sudden or rash decision. I believe that any decision worth making can wait at least over night. That was a big part of my past marriage. He would force me into making decisions on his ever whelm and them blame me for the bad outcome. It took some work before I felt I could make decision instead of being forced into every choice I made.

    Slowing things down after a volatile, high stakes relationship was not easy. I just kept at it though. I often had to make myself slow down and take time. Eventually it just became a habit. He hasn’t really caught on. He attempts to push me around and force my hand with ever negotiation, but it doesn’t bother me as much anymore. I don’t feel controlled by him anymore. It’s amazing how much control a person can give away.

  7. Ann on July 30, 2014 at 11:43 am

    I was thinking how awesome that the court is *garnishing* his wages! Many women can testify having a judgement rendered for their husbands to pay support and then he never does and the court fails to enforce the judgement. That means the wife has too go back to court over and over, draining her limited funds, and many times still no enforcement!

    He is trying to guilt you into no action. Now that you’ve taken these steps you can believe he is now learning how to hold onto as much of the marital money as possible. He will do it covertly all the while acting like he wants to save the marriage. Don’t fall for it! Go to several lawyers that offer free consultations, long before, in the event there is a divorce. You want to know what to expect. Write all your questions down so you can stay focused. If you do have too divorce ask for not just what you need, go big! He will! Don’t play nice, play realistic and remember it’s your future and the children’s at stake!

    Abusive men don’t like being called out on their destructive behavior so he may start to say all kinds of lies about you to garner support, even from your own extended family!

    He makes me laugh in disgust. Yeah he cares so much about your family he is willing to give you a sexually transmitted disease!

    This is a great group for support and truth, stay strong!

  8. Ann on July 30, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    Linda, thank you for writing this: “this whole issue of abuse in all its subtle forms.” It is those subtle forms that keep us off balance and constantly second guessing ourselves. That create great turmoil for which we often can find no words to express what is happening to us and which he likes to use to label us ‘crazy’.

  9. Anisa on July 30, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    I can COMPLETELY relate to this kind of manipulation of scripture to make you question your decisions. Many of the things Leslie said were EXACTLY my first thoughts. Such as, he is so concerned about your “ungodly” conduct and ignores his own.???!! Or that you are responsible for any financial ruin. NO!!! Not the truth! It’s his responsibility, his sin, his consequence. Let him reap what he has sown. I don’t mean to sound vindictive but I was held captive to this kind of manipulation for 24 years.

    When I am confused I often come right here to Leslie’s website and read blogs of other women in similar situations or read a book that has helped me such as “Why does he do that” by Lundy Bancroft. Instead of talking to a bunch of friends theses methods refresh my mind of what I am really dealing with and WHY I have chosen to leave. God FAVORS the fatherless and the husbandless or widow. So you will have favor and He cares about your provision. Courts were put in place for the people that would take advantage of the weak and vulnerable. Also confusion is NOT FROM GOD, condemnation is NOT FROM GOD. Let the cloud of confusion you husband is trying to smother you with be burned out by the light and heat of His truth! You have been set free. The freedom and clarity is only going to increase. YOU CAN DO THIS and YOU ARE GOING TO BE OK. Trust that you KNOW God!!!

    • Sandy on January 18, 2015 at 9:09 am

      Thank you for your comment, it has strengthened me!

  10. Shan on July 30, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    My ex refused to pay child support for the first 18 months we were separated so I took him to court and garnished his wages. He was making my car payment at the time and didn’t want me to pay my own bills because he didn’t think I was financially responsible. So he wanted to make my car payment of $400 in place of child support he owed of $1000 a month plus $600 a month he owed in daycare for his portion. Doesn’t add up!

    He made the same arguments that he couldn’t afford it, I was being horrible to him, he was going to lose the house, blah blah blah, but somehow he made it work when he had to. Don’t let it become a control issue or another way he can manipulate you. Let the state take care of it and stay out of it. After a while he will get used to it and if he realizes he can’t change your mind on this he will stop trying.

  11. Cyndy on July 30, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    I have felt so confused in the past by what my husband says about me, about scripture, about others…I finally came to the end of my line where all I had to hang onto was what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit guiding me into all truth. I started putting on the armor in a meaningful-to-me way. The very first thing I “put on” in the morning is the belt of truth, but for the first time years ago, I told God HE would have to buckle me up! I told him that I didn’t trust my husband and not even myself to know what was true. If I couldn’t trust HIM, I was sunk!!! So I took a leap of faith which I soon discovered was a leap into safety!! I began to ask Him for wisdom and trust whatever He brought to mind or led me to understand in the Bible or through other people and information. I still sense that tendency to doubt His word to my heart, but He has proven completely competent and 100% faithful to guide me into ALL truth! He has not failed ONCE, in the past years– in spite of my own weakness and stumbling along! HE IS SAFE. I am learning to trust Him completely. He even encourages me to trust my own judgment–it’s a process and He holds my hand through it all. He does the same for each one of us! He loves us SO MUCH! And loves doing this for us!! 🙂

  12. Janice' on July 30, 2014 at 7:55 pm

    Funny response from him. I would look him squarely in the face and say ” REALLY, AND THIS IS COMING FROM A GODLY MAN?” What a joke.. Of course you should be getting support from him for you and the family that you both created together. You should use any legal means to do it.

  13. Mavis on July 30, 2014 at 8:42 pm

    I would look him directly in the eyes and tell him that he needs to address his ungodly affairs and his poor financial decisions before he says anything about the ungodly behaviors he thinks sees in you or anyone else. I have learned that sometimes you have to be very direct and blunt, not tactful. Abusers use tact and reasoning against their victims. Don’t let him divert the conversation or the blame to you, this is a classic attitude the abuser uses. They try to take the focus of the conversation away from their own behaviors. do not back down on the court orders, you will only be hurting yourself and your children, as well as sending him the message that all he needs to do to get his way is lay a guilt trip on you. Stay in prayer and let our precious Lord lead you.

    • Leslie Vernick on July 30, 2014 at 8:47 pm

      You all are becoming some strong and wise women. I’m so proud of you all. Praise God.

  14. Lynn on July 31, 2014 at 12:10 am

    I sometimes find myself doubting my decision to divorce. I get confused (which I know is not of The Lord) and I have to remind myself of the details of wishful thinking and real hope. When I think that I shouldn’t have gotten a lawyer or I think that I shouldn’t have filed the papers, I must remember that I had nothing to base real hope that the future would improve. I was and sometimes have wishful thoughts. But we have all learned that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Until their fruit changes we can’t live in fantasy land allowing the lies and hurt to continue. Therefore, we do need the law to enforce things such as child support. It’s unfortunate it has to get to this point but sometimes it has to happen and little by little I think we are all figuring out our worth and our strength in The Lord 🙂 and for that, I am grateful!

  15. Eric on August 14, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    Please be mindful that there are many forms of abuse. These include financial, psychological, emotional, spiritual as well as physical abuse. In mu humble estimation, this is an abusive relationship because he is trying to use “scripture” to control and manipulate. If she asked my opinion, I would tell her to seek every available option to take care of herself and her children. Someone who has no respect for Gods Word and uses it for selfish motives, cannot be trusted, in my opinion.

    • Leslie Vernick on August 14, 2014 at 3:27 pm

      Thanks Eric for the reminder.

  16. Brenda on June 20, 2015 at 4:12 am

    I finally broke down and asked ORS to garnish him for child support. We’ve been divorced almost 3 years and I didn’t ask for back support because I didn’t want to drive the knife in deeper than it had to be. I’ve been the thoughtful one, the one who’s wanted to keep peace. I was the one who wanted to leave. He has always been a long haul truck driver, gone all the time, can’t be relied on to be there, cheats, and lies about it, and spends more money than he makes. We were married 11 years and had 3 kids. I had to work full time to support us. I’m honestly not sure how I did it all. I found God and realized I don’t have to do this. My ex would get a credit card without telling me and then wrack it up and not pay it. He ruined his credit so my credit was all we had. Supporting him and our kids and home on my wages was impossible. I divorced him and assumed all the debt. I had to file chapter 7 and lost everything while I’m still trying to work and support myself and my kids. I’m so glad I divorced him and that’s so sad to say. Finally now I got a raise at work, I’m also a full time student. On my income with the kids in our small apartment I have more liquid money than my ex does. His debt is so high he is about to have his car repossessed. He said that since I asked for support now he might be homeless. He said this in front of his daughter. She feels bad now that we asked for the money. He makes more than I do but he spends it on I don’t know what he does with it but he makes somewhere around $74k a year. He tells the kids in being greedy, and that he’s paying for my hair and nails and that’s wh my he can’t come take them on his weekends anymore cuz their mom is taking all his money. I get $455 a month. And what’s worse is that this is just the beginning. I haven’t even received my first check yet. I wonder if I should have just never asked for it. All I wanted was for him to be a dad to them but now I’m not sure he’s even going to do that now.

  17. Jus sayin' on April 20, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    To covetous mean greedy, acquisitive, grasping, avaricious mean having or showing a strong desire for especially material possessions. covetous implies inordinate desire often for another’s possessions .

    Check the scriptures on covetness but we want to make sure in our hearts we are clean and not using child support as a control or as a pay back tool….only u and God will kn if your heart is in the right place

    Whats sad is the people on this site are quick to given out advises saying this man and that but only heard one side of the story …. just saying

  18. Jus sayin' on April 20, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight.” —Proverb 11:1

  19. Jus sayin' on April 20, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    To Eric and Leslie out curiosity How do you kn these ladies werent rebellious wives ?

    fathers refuse to pay child support….It’s b/c the Court System is extremely unfair…. in punishing them leave them homeless and empty and rewarding women

    Imagine urself in these circumstances and for every one of these situation required money to get out of….

    Some of the most common penalties for nonpayment of child support include the following:

    Warrant issued for arrest, which may be criminal or civil
    Finding of contempt of court
    Fines, jail, or both
    Garnishment of wages, including unemployment and worker’s compensation
    Denial of tax refunds
    Exclusion from receipt of certain government benefits
    Revocation of passport
    Suspension, revocation or denial of various licenses—professional, driver’s, hunting/fishing/boating
    Having a lien placed on property to cover payment

    • Leslie Vernick on April 20, 2016 at 7:20 pm

      I have no sympathies for a parent who does not pay support for his child. Period. If he has children, then he should contribute financially to their welfare, even if the marriage fails. Yes the penalties are stiff because there are a lot of deadbeat dads out there. Are you one of them?

      • Do not judge on February 26, 2020 at 2:05 pm

        This is an extremely judgemental thing to say. There is a difference between court ordered child support and splitting expenses. You have no idea how unfair the court ordered is. It is developed for the state to profit.

  20. Jus sayin' on April 20, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    “I am now separated from my husband. He has carried on affairs for the past 12 or so years of our marriage, even when I suspected and asked, he lied directly to my face and denied it. He has sent other women money, went on vacations with them, and who knows what else. He is also emotionally abusive and very controlling. I chose to get myself and my kids out of that environment until he has proved that I can trust him again.”

    How did he abuse you?

    Doesnt make any kind of sense to me after all the long letter u still
    WOULD WANT to go back to a CHEATER/ABUSIVER TO TRUST AGAIN as u describe your husband to be… I think your only doing this b/c husband have interest for another woman (yes he is wrong )

    Leslie I find your advises are one side and more carnal than Godly inspired you str8 out like many other on this site attack this man without solid facts of both sides

    “In fact, the world label a husband who exercises his Biblical authority to rule over his wife is breaking the law. It’s called “Domestic Abuse.”

    Where do u stand on this?

    • Leslie Vernick on April 20, 2016 at 7:21 pm

      I don’t believe BIblical authority gives a husband the right to rule over his wife. And domestic abuse is breaking the law. The curse of sin is that her husband will try to rule over her – but Christ came to deliver us from the curse of the law.

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