Most states offer options for modifying divorce and child custody orders already in place. The courts understand that the orders that worked for your family initially may not work forever. So, the short answer is yes; you can get child support changed if you lose your job and can’t keep up with payments as expected. Many divorce law firms offer no-obligation evaluations for those wanting help getting child support, addressing custody concerns, or modifying an order. A Child Custody Attorney can offer support and guidance, all while pursuing the best possible outcome for your family.
You Can Get Child Support Changed if You Lose Your Job
When you initially received your child support orders, the court followed the state’s guidelines and determined how much you should pay based on several factors. These calculations likely accounted for each parent’s income, the custodial agreement, and the child’s specific needs. If one or more of these factors changes significantly, the child support order could change, too. Each state has its own approved reasons for modifying child support. For example, Alabama law allows for child support modification if:
- Both parents agree there needs to be a change.
- There is evidence to show the current order is not equitable anymore.
- There is a change in the parenting schedule.
- There has been a significant change in the child’s expenses, such as enrolling in private school or receiving a medical diagnosis.
- There is a change of circumstances for either parent, such as job loss, disability, or incarceration.
Generally, child support orders ask one parent to pay the other a specific sum each month to provide for the child or children they share. The courts use special formulas and additional factors to determine child custody amount when establishing the parenting plan. As time passes, these factors change. These factors could include job loss.
Would Proposing a Child Support Modification Benefit Me?
If you are the non-custodial parent, alternative parent, or otherwise pay child support, losing your job could make it difficult to continue paying the money due each month until you find another position. If there is reason to believe you could be out of the job market for several months or more, requesting a modification could be a good idea. Most states allow child support modifications if you and the other parent agree. If you have a good relationship with your child’s other parent, a temporary payment reduction could be an option. You still need to petition the court for a modification, but it is much easier to get approval when this occurs. Otherwise, you must prove your case to the judge and demonstrate why a change is necessary.
Circumstances Matter When It Comes to Modifying Child Support Orders
While you can get child support changed if you lose your job, a modification isn’t guaranteed. For instance, the other party may contest the modification. You may have financial assets that can pay child support while you’re out of work. Depending on the circumstances, you may need to attend family court and argue your position. Then, a judge could grant a modification. The judge could ask these questions when determining whether to order a modification:
- What is the current child custody arrangement?
- Does the child custody agreement promote the child’s best interests?
- How long ago did you lose your job?
- Are you currently trying to find new work?
- Is the modification temporary or permanent?
The judge may also consider why you lost your job. If you quit or misbehaved, and the company fired you, the judge is much less likely to issue new orders that change your support obligation. If they determine you lost your job through no fault of your own and are struggling to find a position with similar pay in today’s job market, they could consider granting a modification.
A Judge Could Grant a Modification Order Based on Your Situation
If the judge agrees to change your child support orders permanently, they will not base the amount on your unemployment check or having no income. Instead, they will consider:
- Your past earnings
- Your earning potential based on your education and experience
- The other parent’s income
- Your parenting plan
- Other factors
You must continue paying your previous child support amount throughout this process. For this reason, you may want to quickly file your modification petition. Many people have to reduce their spending significantly following a job loss, but paying child support is a part of your obligation as a parent. Missing these payments could land you in legal trouble, lead to significant backpay owed, and cause other problems.
What if I Am the Primary Custodial Parent?
When a primary parent loses their job, this could directly affect the child’s everyday life. A parent could struggle to pay for things their child needs, and it could change the child’s lifestyle significantly. The primary custodial parent’s income is a factor in calculating child support obligations, so a change could also warrant a modification. You can also request a modification in child support as the primary custodial parent, but the same rules apply. You must show why your job ended and what you are doing to remedy the situation. Again, having a temporary agreement with your ex could provide a more straightforward process than arguing in court.
Requesting a Child Support Increase May Not Jeopardize Your Parental Rights
Many parents wonder if they could lose custody of their children after losing a job and requesting more support. In many cases, this is unlikely. The ability to earn and support your children is only one factor in a long list that judges consider when making custody rulings. However, you must get back to work as soon as possible or ensure your household income does not drop so low that your children’s basic needs are unmet. If your child’s other parent believes the child’s needs are not met in your home, this could support a request to modify custody or visitation. Requesting an increase in child support follows the same process as requesting a decrease. It requires showing.
- There is a significant change in the circumstances since the original orders.
- This change negatively affects the child.
- The requested modification is in the child’s best interests.
You can feel confident that a temporary drop in income should not affect your custody or visitation, regardless of your current orders. Instead, focus on finding a new job or taking other steps to ensure your child’s safety and well-being.
There Are Two Main Ways to Alter Child Support Orders
There are generally two ways to alter your child support orders. These methods include:
- A signed agreement: Your lawyer can write an agreement stating the new child support amount, why it is necessary, and how long it is in effect (unless permanent). Both parties sign the agreement, and your lawyer can submit it to the court for approval.
- A petition to modify: Your attorney could file a petition to modify the current child support order. This includes certain details, such as how much you can pay and whether this situation is temporary or long-term. Your lawyer can also gather evidence to show why this is a necessary change and present it to the judge in court.
The court system allows you to make changes that meet your child’s needs. You can learn more about a possible arrangement when you connect with a child support modification lawyer.
You Could Entrust Your Child Custody Case to a Legal Professional
Right now, you should focus your full attention on your child’s well-being. You shouldn’t have to juggle a child support modification case along with your other obligations. In this situation, you could partner with a child support lawyer in your area. They have one goal: to reach an agreement that ensures your child’s future. An attorney can:
Assess Your Financial Situation
After losing a job, you may want a reduction in your child support payments but not know how much. A lawyer can review your previous income and other factors associated with your case. That way, you can request a modification that meets your and your child’s needs.
Manage All Case-Related Communications
You might not be on speaking terms with your child’s other parent—and that’s okay. Your lawyer can manage all communications associated with your case to reduce any disputes or tension. This includes drafting, writing, and sending all messages.
Represent You in Court
Fighting for a child support modification in court can prove tiring. You might not know courtroom procedure. You may worry about the case creating animosity between you and your child’s other parent. Your lawyer can present your case, follow necessary protocol, and champion your rights. As you can see, your attorney can do much more than offer advice. They can prepare and file the necessary legal paperwork, outlining your argument with supporting facts and presenting corroborating evidence. They represent your case to the judge and other parties, navigating this process on your behalf while you focus on finding work or taking care of other related concerns.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Child Support Modifications
Some commonly asked questions about child support modifications include:
What Orders Can I Request to Modify?
Most states offer options to modify several aspects of child support and custody. This includes parenting plans, holiday visits, decision-making, and child support. However, making any of these changes requires showing a significant change in circumstances since the original orders. A child custody attorney near you can assess your case and discuss your options.
Can I Get More Child Support if I Lost My Job?
As a primary custodial parent who receives child support, your income plays a role in the orders. A significant change in your income could support a modification. However, this will not be easy. You need to show why you lost your job, why you have not returned to work, and why your child’s other parent should pay more because of it.
What if the Child’s Other Parent and I Agree on a Modification?
When the child’s other parent agrees to change the child support order after a job loss, it makes the modification process easier. Judges generally accept plans when parents agree on them, so long as they are generally fair and consider the child’s best interests. When a mutual agreement is possible, this is usually the best choice. It gives both parents more control over the outcome, including the payment amount and how long the order lasts.
Can I Handle This Process on My Own?
It’s a terrible idea. Having an attorney assess your options and write the petition is a good idea. Even when both parents agree, there are certain steps you must take and specific ways the court likes petitions written. Local divorce attorneys are familiar with these standards and how to navigate the process.
Is a Temporary Change in Child Support Possible?
In many instances of job loss, parents could work with a temporary arrangement. If there is a reason to support a permanent change, a judge might approve it. However, a temporary reduction is more likely in many cases.
What if the Other Party Doesn’t Abide by a Court-Ordered Modification?
The court may instate a modified child support order. Yet, the other parent may refuse to abide by these payments, offering less than you need or failing to make payments altogether. If this happens, they could face penalties from the state. The courts may impose fines and even jail time if the other parent refuses to comply. It could also find the other parent in contempt, leading to other complications.
You Have Legal Options
When you need to change your child support agreement because your circumstances change, you could contact an attorney about how to navigate this process. Your lawyer can explain your options and handle the paperwork for you. You do not have to handle this process on your own or without an advocate.