The pandemic has caused financial hardship for many, and job losses have been significant. If you have lost your job, become unemployed after your divorce, and/or have been struggling to pay child support there are options available to you.
Child support is an agreement or legal obligation, meaning it does not automatically go away due to unemployment or change to your financial circumstances. However, there are certain steps you can take to ensure that your support payments remain manageable. If there have been changes at work or if your income has significantly changed you should talk to an attorney to better understand your options.
What If I Can’t Pay?
People often feel defeated after losing a job and being faced with financial difficulties. The biggest mistake family law attorney’s see is when a party simply stops paying child support and does not seek help. Interest and arrears will continue to accrue making the obligation of support seem insurmountable. Here are the key steps you need to take immediately:
- Communicate with your ex-partner and explain the financial situation.
- Contact an attorney to better understand what your options are to modify your support order.
- If your child support payments are being made to the Department of Child Support Services, contact them immediately to let them know your situation and inquire as to what your options are.
The courts understand that life changes happen and that people run into financial difficulties, which is why parties have a right under the law to file a modification with the court. In your motion with the court you can ask the presiding Judge to review the circumstances and make appropriate changes to your court ordered support payment. Getting your modification filed immediately is important as it allows you to ask for retroactivity going back to your filing date. This means that if the court makes a new order the effective date of that new order can be backdated to the date you filed your modification saving the filing party money for past due arrears and interest.
Why Talk to a Family Law Specialist
Modifications in child support can be tricky to accomplish. The courts, in reviewing your motion to modify a support order, will be interested in the following:
- How long have you been out of work prior to seeking a modification of your order?
- What was the reason for your loss of job or current financial difficulties?
- What have you done to find a new position, and do you have any alternative income sources?
- Did you receive any severance payment from your previous employer?
- Is the individual facing physical or mental difficulty that would prevent them from obtaining and retaining a new job and seeking employment in their field of work?
Hiring an experienced attorney to handle difficult motions can be key to winning or losing your requests to modify an order. A good attorney will know how to analyze your specific circumstance and advise you on the best strategy to get your support order modified. Sometimes an attorney can negotiate with your spouse outside of the courtroom, with your spouse’s attorney, and/or with the Department of Child Support Services to resolve the matter and to get a new court order in place.
If you lose your job or your financial circumstances change it is imperative that you seek to modify your court order immediately. While you are working to modify your child support agreement it is prudent to advise your spouse of your change in your circumstances, to continue to look for new employment, and that you make every effort to pay support, even if it is just in part. After all, it is important to remember that child support payments are intended to help provide for the child and should not be seen as a punishment. You should explore all the options available to make sure that you can continue to provide for the child’s well-being. But if circumstances are such that you just cannot make your support payments, seek immediate professional help from an attorney so you do not find yourself deeper in debt.