If you are going through a divorce and have children, you and your spouse will have to agree on a child support arrangement, including who has to pay and how much the monthly responsibility will be. But what if you don’t have an income source and can’t afford child support? Will you still be required to make an obligatory child support payment? The answer is usually yes, but first, the basics.
How is Child Support Determined?
Child support is determined by a variety of factors, but the biggest factor is how much income each parent earns, including salary or wages, bonuses, Social Security benefits, any interest payments, commissions, rent payments on personal property, disability payments, and more. If a parent does not have a source of income, the court may estimate income based on any prior work history and/or the parent’s potential earning capacity. The estimation would be based on what the parent should reasonably be able to earn and how easily a job could be found. For example, if a parent is having career issues and is currently unemployed, the court may look at the parent’s previous employment history to determine how much they are capable of earning again in the future. In other words, the obligation will be partially based on the parent’s ability and opportunity to find similar work, whether inside or outside of their chosen profession.
Exceptions to the Rules
For anyone in an unemployed state and going through a divorce, it’s natural to want to avoid the necessity of paying child support, even if all of your intentions are good. In many cases, if you can prove that your income has been drastically reduced – for reasons outside your control – you can have the court alter your child support order in an effort to help you work through your job and income loss issues. There are, however, a few key requirements and exceptions:
Exception #1: The first exception is that the order must be modified by the court, which means you can’t just stop paying or pay less than what the order states and not expect to suffer any consequences. If you are faced with financial difficulty that you know will affect your ability to pay child support, you should talk to your attorney as quickly as possible to file a motion and to request a hearing to modify the original order.
Exception #2: The second exception deals with any back child support that was previously due. That means that if you were lacking in your payments prior to an attempt to modify the order, it is unlikely that the judge will be able to modify your payments retroactively. If the order is modified, it will only affect future payments – going forward, you may be able to pay a reduced amount, but you’ll still need to catch up the outstanding payments in full.
Exception #3: The last exception to this rule relates to the reason behind the request. A financial hardship, such as a layoff, an unexpected illness or some other type of emergency, are all valid reasons to have your child support payments reduced. On the other hand, your inability to pay child support because of a questionable decision on your part – you refinanced your car payment, bought a new home or lost your money gambling – any optional type of debt will disqualify you for a lesser payment. On the contrary, the courts see child support payments as top priorities, so if you don’t treat them as such, nothing you do will look good to the court. If you are incapable of managing your money well or excessive spending increases your debts, the court will definitely not relieve you of your child support obligation. Likewise, if you quit your job or choose to take a lower-paying job, it is unlikely that the court will reduce your child support payment.
Get the Help You Need
The best way to manage a situation like this is to find the right people to help you. If you are bad with money, you find a financial advisor to help you sort through your budget. If you are not on good terms with your ex, you find a counselor to mediate your issues. If you are unsure about your legal rights when it comes to child support, you need to find a trusted attorney to walk you through every aspect of your divorce proceedings. If you need an experienced, trustworthy law firm to help you and you’re in the state of Alabama, contact us at the Alabama Law Group. We can help you navigate the divorce process with care and professionalism. Give us a call today!