What to do if job loss affects your ability to pay child support

On Behalf of | Dec 12, 2023 | Family Law

Losing your job can be a frightening experience – particularly when others are depending on your income. If you’re responsible for paying child support, your anxiety can be even greater after job loss because there’s likely a court order requiring you to pay a specified amount of compensation to your ex each month.

Disruptions in income happen all the time. Parents lose their jobs, get their hours cut or face demotions for a variety of reasons. Family courts understand that. However, it’s crucial that you handle the matter appropriately to avoid financial, or possibly legal, penalties.

Even if you have an understanding co-parent, you need to let the court know if you require a temporary modification to your child support order. If your co-parent pursues an enforcement action, you could be faced not just with penalties but with responsibility for making up the payments you missed before you’ve gotten back on your feet.

Can job loss affect your parenting rights?

Some people are afraid to let their co-parent or the court know about their unemployment. They fear that it will somehow affect their access to their child. However, parenting rights and child support aren’t interdependent. For example, if your co-parent denies you the right to see your child, you can’t withhold child support. Both are for the child’s benefit.

Unless you did something egregious -– like threatening violence against your boss or a co-worker – the loss of a job, even if it’s due to poor performance, should have no effect on your parenting rights. In fact, it may give you a chance to take on more parenting responsibilities while you’re looking for a new job. This may allow your co-parent to pick up extra shifts or lessen daycare costs for a time while money is tight. It may be wise to address any temporary changes to parenting time when you seek the changes to your child support order so that they’re properly codified.

As noted, it’s crucial to notify the court if you’re going to have to miss or minimize child (and/or spousal) support payments for a time. The judge will expect you to provide evidence of your changed financial status – and also expect you to look for another job. It’s best to have legal guidance to help ensure that you get the reprieve you need as you navigate this challenging time.