Unexpectedly losing your job puts everyone in a tough situation. For those paying child support, it become even more of a challenge. If you lose your job, child support obligations do not just stop or disappear, even if your payments were automatically deducted from your paycheck. A court has ordered you to make payments, and that obligation does not change until the judge’s Order changes. This means that your or your lawyer will need to file a request to modify child support with the local court or agency in charge of such matters. You will want to file this request as soon as possible after losing your job so that your payments can be reduced or eliminated while you seek new employment. These Orders can be temporary or permanent, depending on the circumstances.
If you miss child support payments because you lost your job or otherwise, you are still responsible for those payments. The missed payments go into arrears and may accumulate interest. These debts are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. Furthermore, these debts cannot be negotiated into spousal settlement agreements because the money is owed to the child(ren) and not to the spouse.
Remember that requesting to modify support does not guarantee your obligations will be relieved or reduced. You will want to be able to show that you have been making a good faith and earnest effort to find new employment. You will want to document these attempts including places you have applied, stages in interview or hiring processes you have made it to, or attendance at job fairs to name a few examples. Even if you have not found a job yet, the Court could assign you an “earning capacity” of what you have the ability to earn, if they feel you are not trying hard enough to find a replacement job opportunity.
Complete job loss is not the only grounds to request to modify child support. A job change where you are earning less money may also be sufficient to reduce support obligations. Remember the judge will be looking for true financial hardship and will not be sympathetic if she thinks you are trying to skirt the system.
Local laws and procedures vary. If you need help, you should contact an attorney or legal aid service and request help. If you are experiencing true financial hardship, do not wait most judges cannot retroactively modify support.
Pottstown Family Law Attorneys or employment law attorneys who are well versed in such laws and rules, will be able to make arguments, and help you go through your financial situation, to argue for reductions and deductions from the support amount.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Rick Linn, LLC for their insight into family law practice.