How Do I Squeeze Blood From a Turnip?


After 4 years of paying child support as a non-custodial parent, I was awarded full custody of my children. I expected that my ex-wife would be ordered to pay me child support, even if it was a small amount. She wasn’t ordered to pay me a nickle, even though child support calculators indicated that she bore an obligation of about 26% of the children’s maintenance.

Instead of child support, the judge ordered that my ex reimburse me 26% of the costs of our custody evaluation and that she be responsible for 26% of all out of pocket health care expenses. It has been over two years since that original court order and she has yet to pay me a penny toward reimbursement of the custody evaluation (her portion would be about $2,500) or anything toward the children’s health care costs.

Because my ex is a professional mooch who lives off of handouts from church, family and friends and rarely holds down a job (she has been employed for about 9 months out of the last 15 years), my attorney told me that it was pointless to take her back to court to try to get an order for her to pay me anything that is owed. “You can’t squeeze blood from a turnip,” is what I was told.

But we’ve got 3 kids together, 2 of whom are way overdue for braces (and the other is close behind). I could really use some contribution from her as she had been ordered to pay. Is there anything I can do to compel her to come up with any money? Or am I really out of luck because she doesn’t care to follow the court order?



Probably the reason your attorney said that to you is that to engage an attorney to pursue a breach action in court, may cost you more in attorneys fees and time than you could possibly get back given your exs lack of income. The only other thing you could do is to pursue an action for breach pro se, however, that is undertaking a risk that you could lose. Even if you get a favorable outcome in court, there’s still the matter of forcing her to pay, and there you are left back at the same spot. You can pile breach action upon breach action, and I’m not sure but it might eventually reach a point where she could be jailed, but ask yourself how much is your own hourly rate and whether or not it’s worth it.

If you do decide to go that route, make sure that you send her copies of the bills when requesting repayment, and send those copies certified mail, return receipt requested, so that you have solid documentation of when they were delivered. Also, get a copy of your local court rules and get to know them well.

It’s not fair that she is doing this, but look at the overall picture and how to best allocate your personal resources (time and money) to serve yourself and your family. Measure whether the potential gains outweigh those things that you will have to give up to make it happen.


This is a difficult situation, and I agree with all of Athos’s advice. You can of course take her to court to establish child support since it doesn’t appear that any support has ever been ordered. Your best argument to get support will likely be that she’s suppressing her income in bad faith, i.e. to avoid her responsibilites as a parent to provide for her children. If a court finds that she is suppressing her income, then they can impute income to her. If she never pays even after a court order is in effect, your remedy is to constantly file for contempt. Eventually, if she refuses to provide support, she can go to jail until such time as she pays an amount in child support as determined by the judge. Like Athos mentioned, you need to see how much all of this will cost you versus how much you will likely receive back to decide on the best course of action.