Clearly, with COVID-19 and significant changes in the global supply chain currently impacting most businesses, everyone has had their job put at risk to some degree. This is the case even in great economic times. A simple restructuring of a company may cause a job loss. In this case, many parents paying child support simply do not know what to do. Willful failure to pay support is a contemptible action in court. This blog explores the best practices to follow when you lose your job and/or otherwise cannot pay child support.
The best way to start to address this problem is to seek the guidance of counsel. There are many different ways this may be addressed with your ex-spouse that may be done without significant litigation, such as temporary abatement of child support by agreement. Ignoring the problem may make it far worse because you do not act. For instance, a trial court can retroactively modify your child support back to the time of job loss or reduction in income. However, it can only retroactively modify to the date you file your petition.1 Thus, it is imperative that you immediately file a Verified Petition to Modify Child Support in most cases with guidance by counsel.
Most family law attorneys have had clients who lose employment, never filed a modification petition, and have thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in back support. These are hard cases because the trial court—even if your evidence of the date of job loss is clear—and you have been looking for a job, the trial court does not have the jurisdiction to modify child support retroactively if you do not file a Verified Petition for Modification of Child Support.
For some readers, it may be the case that the arrearage is already massive and there is no modification action pending. These are not necessarily hopeless cases if you have skilled counsel and properly try your case. While the court cannot retroactively modify support, your counsel can assist the court in properly determining the arrearage and your current support obligation. From there, the court can, with the right evidence, order X dollars per week paid toward the arrearage along with current child support. This keeps all of the past-due child support from being ordered to be paid at once.
How does this occur? Simply put, you need to put on evidence to show you are reasonably paying toward a determined arrearage amount and show what it costs to live. Thus, you can address an arrearage by the court using its discretion to order you to pay only a certain sum a week toward the arrearage. This will thus allow you to have a quality of life and still meet your obligations to your children. While these are only a few of the possibilities of how to address a child support arrearage, a skilled lawyer can help you properly navigate the loss of a job and/or a large child support arrearage.
This blog was written by counsel at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle domestic cases throughout the State, including complex child support cases. This blog is written for general educational purposes only as child support is a complex subject with numerous statutes and/or cases that may apply to your case. It generally focuses on best practices in child support litigation. However, this blog should not be construed as legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.