I’ve lost my job. What does that mean for child support?

Man unemployed and worried about the child support payments

Losing your job is always stressful, as you’re left wondering what will happen to your planned expenses, your health care access, and more. But if you pay child support, it can add another layer of stress to losing your job.

Here’s what you need to know about paying child support if you’ve lost your job:

No, your obligation to pay doesn’t stop the minute You lose your job

Some people (wrongly) assume that their obligation to pay child support is solely tied to whether or not they have a job. That’s incorrect.

You are obligated to pay child support because you have children whose parents are not together. If you have a court order saying you have to pay child support, you must honor that order – including the amount you pay – until a court says otherwise.

If you’ve lost your job, continue paying your court-ordered child support for as long as you’re able. Otherwise, you may face extra penalties and payments if you don’t keep paying.

Depending on where you live and your pre-job loss arrangement, paying your child support may require you to directly pay your state’s child support disbursement unit via check, bank transfer, or credit card payment. 

If it looks as if your time without a job will be lengthy, you can petition the court to reduce the amount of child support you are obligated to pay.

However, because courts favor maintaining the status quo for children, the burden of proof when showing why you think your child support obligation should be reduced is very high.

Why You lost your job matters

When it comes to proving that you qualify for a decrease in your child support obligation, the reason why you no longer have a job is going to become key.

If your company closed or you were laid off, or if you were injured and lost your job, most courts will consider you a better candidate for a child support decrease. However, if you were fired, voluntarily resigned, or left your job to attend school, the court may be less willing to decrease your child support.

Why is this? Courts are very wary of child support obligors who decrease their income of their own choice and actions (negligence, choice, etc.). To a court, it could look as if your leaving your steady, well-paying job to go back to school is a way to skip out on paying your ex child support, even if that isn’t your intention.

Just a reminder: If you receive unemployment benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, or a severance package as part of losing your job, the court will consider that as income when calculating your obligations.

How You petition matters, too

Petitioning the court to decrease your child support payments due to a job loss is going to look a lot better to a judge than petitioning the court to be completely released of your child support obligations.

If you’re filing a petition to decrease the amount you pay in child support because you anticipate a long-term hit to your income – and your subsequent ability to pay all your bills – the courts may be more sympathetic to your petition than if you’re hoping to get out of child support at all.

Bottom line: get an attorney if You’ve lost your job & can’t pay child Support

Filing your own petition to refigure child support is possible, but there are a lot of technicalities that you can run into during the process.

The best way to give yourself the chance of a favorable outcome so you can pay your bills and still maintain your support obligations is to hire an attorney to walk you through the process. A licensed, experienced family law attorney can tell you what to expect and even whether it’s a worthwhile undertaking to petition the court.

Child support Attorney in Washington, D.C.

Whether you need your child support obligations re-evaluated due to job loss or you’re just embarking on a child support and custody case, you need a skilled attorney on your side. The team at Lopez Law Firm has years of experience helping people just like you get the results they deserve. Schedule your consultation today!