How Does Job Loss Affect Child Support?

For divorced parents, losing a job does not mean child support will be null and void, and amounts in arrears must still be paid. Additionally, declaring bankruptcy does not affect court-ordered child support.

 

This is good news for the child, but maybe not so much for the parent without a job.

The court can alter child support obligations when a parent experiences a change in financial situation.

 

Should a parent find himself or herself unable to pay the amount of child support owed because of job loss, or receiving a pay cut, the parent may be able to secure a court order called a child support modification.

Child Support Modification

The child support modification is an agreement between two parents, and must be put into writing and signed by the judge. In the event that both parents cannot reach a consensus on the child support modification, a hearing must be requested in front of the judge where both parties will be allowed to present their arguments about the child support modification.

The modification may be permanent or temporary, depending on the circumstances of the request. Usually, if job loss is the reason, modification will most likely be temporary. Of course, to have an approval of the child support modification, the parent must present substantial evidence of change in circumstances. As mentioned, change in circumstances may be job loss, decrease in income due to switching jobs and/or receiving a pay cut. 

However, those abovementioned reasons may not always be sufficient reasons to request modification. This is because there may be other possible sources to support the child financially. Some of these possible sources include but are not limited to: severance pay, unemployment payments, disability payments, workers’ compensation benefits, pension benefits, social security benefits, and gifts and/or prizes, to name a few. 

If all possible means of support have been exhausted, the parent may then file for child support modification at the same court that issued the original child support order. The modification request papers filed with the court must also be presented to the other parent. And while going through the process of getting the child support modification approved, the requesting parent must look for means to fulfill his/her child support obligations. You are not off the hook.

You Must Continue To Pay

By continuing to pay while requesting modification, it demonstrates to the court that the request is truly because of a change in circumstances and not because the parent is attempting to skip his/her duties. Showing good faith to the court is vital in cases such as this. 

Change in circumstance

To be clear, “change in circumstance” is a change of fact that has affected either party or the child resulting in an inability to continue the court-ordered payment of child support. A prime example of a circumstances change is when one of the parents loses a job and the child support mainly comes from that parent’s income. The parent who pays the child support should be able to cover the needs of the child, but the needs should still be within the financial means of the parent. 

Keep things friendly

It is important to maintain a healthy relationship with your ex-spouse. Some divorce lawyers might not advise this, but for divorced parents with children, the situation will be less stressful. And the main reason is quite obvious-- a friendly relationship is healthy for the children. 

But apart from that, the benefits of keeping in touch with your ex-spouse are that you will be able to immediately track down your former spouse should he/she fall behind on child support payments, and it will be less likely that your ex-spouse will withhold payments simply out of spite.

You might ask, “why do I need to bother keeping up-to-date on my ex-spouse’s life when everything is going smoothly with child support?” It is because circumstances change. You or your former spouse may suddenly re-marry and have more kids, or suffer investment losses and unexpected expenses, or paychecks might be slashed. 

When these types of things happen, child support payments might suddenly be at risk, or late, or forgotten. Should this occur, the parent who stayed connected is more at an advantage versus the one who lost touch. 

​What About The Opposite Situation?

Suppose at the time of divorce, your spouse is out of work. And then suppose six months down the road, your spouse finds employment. Can you then file for a request of child support modification? Absolutely!  

Understandably, job loss is never easy, and the stress of being out-of-work can be doubly difficult for divorced parents. For a parent going through this stressful time, hang in there because you are not alone; many networks and resources are available to provide help to ease the situation. Should you need extra help or advice, please reach out to me for a free consultation at divorce@kimberlysurber.com

Tags: child support, divorce, job loss, support modification, divorce and job loss

This information is not intended to be a substitute for seeking legal advice from an attorney. For legal or tax advice please seek the services of a qualified attorney and/or qualified tax professional.

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