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What if a parent paying child support loses their job?

On Behalf of | Feb 2, 2024 | Child Custody

Most everyone loses a job at some point in their lives for one reason or another. If you’re a parent who’s paying child support, that reality may be of little consolation. Not being able to comply with a child support order is understandably a frightening prospect for most people. Aside from not being able to provide for your child for a time, you may fear that there could be legal consequences as well as fallout from your ex.

It’s important to remember that not being able to pay what you owe is a much different circumstance than being unwilling to pay. One of the first things you should do if you aren’t going to be able to make at least your next payment or two in full and on time is to notify the court.

Why a support order modification will likely be necessary

Even if your co-parent is understanding about your situation, your agreement is with the court and a child support order is a court order. Non-compliance with it can result in penalties and, in some cases, even incarceration. If your child support payments are being withdrawn automatically from your paycheck, you will also need to notify the agency that makes withdrawals of your inability to pay right now.

A job loss or any significant change in your income typically warrants a temporary support modification. A judge will likely ask about income from other sources, including unemployment benefits. They will also want you to provide them with evidence that you didn’t just quit your job and that you’re actively looking for another one that pays at least the same amount.

Support and parenting rights are not interdependent

It’s also important to know that inability (or even the intentional failure) to pay child support should not affect your parenting rights. Your co-parent can’t withhold your custody or visitation rights because you aren’t paying support for a time. Support and parenting time are two separate things as far as the law is concerned, and both are primarily intended to operate for the child’s well-being. Likewise, a parent can’t withhold paying child support because their ex isn’t letting them see their child.

If you need to get a temporary child support order modification, it’s best to seek legal guidance before you take any steps. This can help protect your parenting rights and prevent unnecessary complications.