A Firm Advocate For Florida Families

What if you can’t pay child support because you’ve lost your job?

On Behalf of | May 10, 2024 | Family Law

Losing a job, no matter what the circumstances, can be a devastating experience. This may be particularly true if you’re paying child support. One of your first concerns may be how you’re going to come up with the next payment – or maybe the next few.

Judges typically understand that people’s employment and income are likely to change over the years a child is growing up – for better or worse. That’s why it’s crucial to notify the court as soon as possible if you’re unable to fulfill your support obligations as detailed in your family’s child support order. A judge can approve a temporary modification that takes into account your current financial situation.

Do you really have to go to court?

Even if your ex is understanding and agrees to accept less or let you skip a few payments, that’s not enough. Child support is for the child’s well-being. Only a judge can legally approve a change. Further, even if your ex is initially okay with it, they could change their mind at any point – or someone in their family could — and report you for not complying with the order. That situation can result in serious consequences – potentially including jail time.

When you request a temporary modification from the court, be prepared to provide evidence of your full financial picture. A judge will want to know that you don’t have other sources of income or assets that be used while you’re unemployed to pay your normal amount of child support. They’ll also want to see evidence that you did indeed lose your job and didn’t simply quit with no other work lined up. While the temporary modification is in place, you may need to provide evidence that you’re seriously looking for another job and that you’re collecting unemployment and any other benefits or severance you may be entitled to receive.

It’s crucial to understand that your inability to pay child support has no effect on your parenting rights. Your ex can’t withhold time with your child or cut you out of decisions you have a right to be part of. Support and custody are both for the child’s benefit. One isn’t a quid pro quo for the other. Even parents who withhold child support they’re able to pay don’t lose access to their child on that basis.

It’s best to get legal guidance before you ask the court for a temporary support modification or even notify your ex. This can help you protect your rights and also help ensure that you get the temporary reprieve you need.