The actual amount of income a paying parent is earning is only one factor courts consider when deciding whether to reduce child support. Another factor courts consider in addition to the actual amount of income a paying parent is currently earning is how much a paying parent can earn. The reason for this is that courts are primarily concerned with the best interest of the child, and ensuring that the child’s best interest is being met.
So Child Support Won’t Be Reduced Because of a Lost Job?
That’s not true. Child support can be reduced due to a lost job, but losing a job doesn’t guarantee an automatic reduction in child support. The ultimate question a court must answer is whether a material or substantial change has occurred.
What’s important in this inquiry is how and why the paying parent is no longer employed. If the paying parent is intentionally unemployed or intentionally underemployed, then a court may not reduce child support. However, a court may reduce child support if a parent is genuinely unemployed or underemployed.
For example, a paying parent who losses their job due to their own misconduct, say continually showing up late for work, may not be successful in getting their child support reduced. On the other hand, a paying parent who works in an industry that’s struggling and is one of many employees who losses their job may be successful in getting their child support reduced. Of course, both of these situations are examples and there are many scenarios in which a court may or may not reduce child support.
Thus, a change in circumstances—losing a run-of-the-mill job that can easily be replaced—is not always a material or substantial change—losing the ability to work and earn same amount as before. If a material and substantial change hasn’t occurred, child support won’t be reduced.
What Should a Paying Parent Do If They Lose Their Job?
First, keep paying. It’s important to pay as much as possible, up to the required amount. Continued payment may help demonstrate that the loss of employment was unintentional or that the paying parent is sincerely concerned with their child’s best interest.
Second, immediately file a motion to modify child support. If a court grants the modification it may decide to do so retroactively, meaning they may decide the effective date for the modification should be the date the motion for modification was filed. Any missed payments before the effective date of modification will be considered a debt to be repaid with interest (an “arrearage”).
Third, keep looking for employment. This may reflect favorably on the paying parent and allow a court to decide that the loss of employment wasn’t intentional or that the paying parent has their child’s best interest in mind.
At the end of the day, remember that courts have to justify their decisions with good reasons. If you want good things from them, help them help you by giving them good reasons to justify their decisions.
What Should a Receiving Parent Do If They Stop Receiving Child Support Due to Lost Employment?
First, don’t withhold your children from the paying parent. Access and visitation aren’t related to payment of child support. Courts know this presume you know it too. Think of it this way, if the paying parent is authorized to have visitation then a court has found visitation to be in the child’s best interest. If you withhold your child from the paying parent due to unpaid child support, in the eyes of the court that’s two things that are against the child’s best interest.
Second, you can file a motion for enforcement of the child support order. By filing the a motion for enforcement, you help speed things along. I’ve heard parents say they want to wait so they can get big arrearages with interest, but the reality is that if the child support obligation becomes so large that the paying parent can’t support themselves through legal employment, they simply have no incentive to work. By ensuring that everything in accordance with the child support order, you’re doing the best thing to protect your child’s best interest now and in the future.
Whether you’re the receiving parent of the paying parent, if you’re facing child support issues due to lost employment and you want to talk to a lawyer, you can always give Kannon a call at 512-900-6011.