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Dealing with child support if you find yourself unemployed

On Behalf of | Nov 29, 2023 | Child Support |

When you have a family to support, losing your job or having your hours cut, even if it’s temporary, can be frightening and stressful. It happens to most everyone at some point, but that doesn’t make it easier. 

If you’re a divorced parent with a child support order to worry about, that may be your primary concern if you suddenly have no income – especially if your income is the primary source of support for your child. In addition to penalties for violating the order, you may worry that being unable to pay the required amount will affect your ability to spend time with your child. 

Job loss generally won’t affect your parenting rights

Note that a parent can’t deny the other one custody, visitation or other parental rights because they’re not keeping up on child support, and vice versa. That’s a common misconception.

Further, job loss is no reflection on your ability to be a good parent. Unless someone loses their job for doing something violent, dangerous or illegal, it shouldn’t be cause for a change in their parenting rights.

Don’t attempt to hide the situation

It’s understandable that you may not want your co-parent or child to know about your unemployment – especially if you fear it reinforces your ex’s negative views about you. However, it’s generally best to be honest with your co-parent. Depending on your child’s age, you should probably let them know as well. 

It’s important in both cases to stay positive and emphasize what you’re doing to get back on your feet, so to speak, as soon as possible. You may also be able to take on more child-related chores like school drop-offs and pick-ups while you’re looking for a new job. This may help your co-parent feel less frustrated by the situation.

Take the appropriate steps to seek a temporary child support modification

Unemployment or a significant change in income are typically valid reasons to request a change to your child support order, at least on a temporary basis. Even if your co-parent is agreeable to it, it’s crucial to codify the change. Remember that not following a court order, regardless of the reason, can land you in legal jeopardy. It’s important to have legal guidance as you seek any changes – even temporary ones – to protect your rights.