About 1 in 5 children live in homes that receive child support payments. If you give child support to an ex-spouse, you likely have struggled to give the appropriate amount sometimes. If you’re unemployed, this becomes a nearly impossible challenge.
Read on to learn whether you need to pay child support when you’re out of a job (and how you can lessen the burden on yourself).
Do You Pay Child Support if You’re Unemployed?
Unfortunately for unemployed parents, the answer to this question is a resounding “yes.”
Unemployment doesn’t make a standing child support order any less valid. If you’ve been ordered to put out monthly payments by the court, those stop for no one.
If you fail to pay when unemployed, you will still need to pay up eventually. Until you do, it will accrue interest. You’ll need to pay an even heftier sum down the line, so it’s best not to skimp out on your payments even if you’re unemployed.
In more extreme cases, you could wind up with jail time, too.
What if You Can’t Afford It?
A lot of parents who don’t have child custody will talk to their former spouse if they’re unemployed. They might be able to come to an informal arrangement.
Unfortunately, these personal agreements mean nothing in a court of law. You’re still legally required to pay the originally-ordered sum. Your ex-spouse can sue you if you don’t.
Luckily, there are ways that you can negotiate a smaller payment. You need to work with an experienced family lawyer to request a modification to your support order. When you do, you can discuss your individual circumstances with the attorney and see how much you can realistically decrease your support payments.
How Does This Work?
The process of changing your child support order might slightly vary depending on your state. However, in almost every case, your lawyer will prepare court papers and file them for you. This paperwork, a Complaint for Modification form, will state that there is a difference between the court’s original order vs what you can pay now.
At that point, your lawyer will submit it to the court clerk. The clerk will give them a Summons in exchange.
This Summons informs your ex-spouse that you have filed for a change to the child support order. It tells them that they might want to consider going to court to deal with the legal case you’ve filed.
Some states also will let you file these papers on your own. However, this is a bad idea since you likely don’t have adequate training to read and interpret legal documents. It’s important that an expert files everything to make sure that all Ts are crossed and all Is are dotted.
Your lawyer will also help you serve the Complaint and Summons. They’ll bring the papers to the constable, who will take them to your ex-spouse. You’ll get the original summons back after the paperwork is served in addition to a filled-out Proof of Service section.
This is a great thing to keep for your records.
Going to Court
The point of the Complaint and Summons is to get you a court date. On this day, you’re going to need to bring a Financial Statement form to the court.
It’s important that you also send a copy to your ex-spouse. This will let them know exactly what you requested. You’ll also need to make sure they have a blank copy of the form to fill out so that everyone stays on the same page.
This is going to be tough if you try to do it on your own. After all, communicating with the other parent isn’t always easy, and it can be stressful to talk to someone you’ve had an acrimonious break-up with. An attorney can mediate, send the forms between parties, and nip unnecessary conflicts in the bud.
This makes the entire process much more painless for everyone.
You’re then going to go to court on the day that you scheduled for your hearing. Your lawyer will come with you so that you can have the best representation available. They also will make sure that all your paperwork is ready to go and bring copies to court.
So, How Much Can You Modify?
You won’t be able to choose any child support amount you like. It’s going to be based on the work possibilities available to you.
These possibilities are called ‘imputed income.’ Your imputed income will come from an assessment of your previous employment, income from those jobs, and your ability to earn more down the line. Basically, your ability and willingness to make money are primary considerations.
If you can work, the court can figure out how much you’d be able to earn. If they can’t, they might just tell you that you need to pay based on the minimum wage in your state. Your lawyer can help you figure this out and try to get you the lowest possible sum for child support payments.
Can You Pay Child Support With Unemployment Income?
If you don’t have any income, you likely are considering signing up for unemployment. If you haven’t already, check with your state’s unemployment office. Sign up for benefits.
Then, talk with the office and show them the outstanding payments you haven’t made on child support. Your state office will probably just set up a way for those fees to be taken from your unemployment benefits. You won’t even need to worry about manually paying them back.
However, this can only happen if you qualify for unemployment. You need to be actively looking for work and prepared to show proof of that.
If you don’t qualify because you’re just underemployed or are avoiding getting a job, you’re not going to have tons of options. The court’s going to defer to how much you could be earning based on your education and past income.
You need to be very proactive about finding a job. If you aren’t, you’ll lose the unemployment benefits needed to pay for not only your livelihood but also your child support payments.
Now that you know what happens when you’re unemployed and have child support payments, it’s time to get started.
Our team is committed to helping you find a family lawyer in your area that can help. Contact us to learn more about what we do and how we can assist you with your legal case.