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When you lose your job, your child support order doesn't just go away. You still owe the unpaid amount in arrears, which can't be discharged in bankruptcy and usually can't be reduced retroactively.
But the court can modify your support obligation when you experience a change in your financial situation.
If you are unable to pay the current child support amount due to job loss, you may be able to secure a child support modification, which is a particular type of court order.
Temporary or Permanent?
Parents can agree on a modification. If an agreement is reached between the two parents, it must be put in writing and signed by a judge. If you and the child's other parent can't agree on child support modification, you have to request a hearing in front of a judge where you will both be allowed to make arguments about your proposed modification of child support.
A modification may be either temporary or permanent, depending on the particular circumstances underlying the request. If the request is due to job loss, the modification will likely be temporary.
To get a child support modification, you need to show the court that you have experienced a substantial change in circumstances.
If your significant change in circumstances is that you lost your job or earn less money, make a serious effort to find new employment and document your attempts.
Job Loss May Not Be Enough
But remember, job loss might not by itself be sufficient for a modification. This is because child support can be collected from a variety of sources, including: severance pay, unemployment payments, disability, workers' compensation benefits, and a number of other sources of money.
You should file your child support modification request with the court which issued the child support order currently in place. The papers you file with the court also need to be served on the other parent.
While you go through the process of getting a modified child support order, it's important to try to keep up with your current child support obligations as best you can. It will show the court that your request for a modification is truly due to changed circumstances and isn't an attempt to dodge your child support obligations. Demonstrating good faith to the court is essential.
Losing a job can be a devastating and incredibly stressful experience. But hang in there. There are resources, there is help, and there are networks of support that can ease the situation. For extra help during this difficult time, check out FindLaw's free Guide to Job Loss.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.