What Can I Do If I Can't Afford Child Support?

What Can I Do If I Can't Afford Child Support?

Posted By Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich || 18-Apr-2018

The child support system is designed to provide children with the financial support required to help them thrive and ensure they are taken care of. However, one of the most common issues that come up after a divorce judgment has been entered is that the noncustodial parent can no longer to make the monthly child support payments.

When a parent fails to pay child support, he/she can find him/herself in contempt of court, facing consequences such as wage garnishments, property liens, and even jail time. Fortunately, there are several resources available for parents experiencing this type of situation.

Request a Payment Modification

If you experience a change of circumstances, the first thing to do is contact the Office of Child Support Enforcement that issued your original child support order. To find the contact information of your local office and inform them of your current financial situation, visit the California Department of Child Support Services webpage.

The following are common changes in circumstances that are sufficient for modification:

  • Getting fired or being laid off from a job
  • Substantial changes in income
  • Expensive medical bills
  • Disability
  • The birth of another child
  • Unforeseen additional costs of raising a child

You will have to fill out a legal document stating what has changed, and provide current savings and income information. If the Department determines that you have a legitimate claim, they’ll figure out a payment plan which matches your circumstances. The state would rather your child receive less than the original amount ordered than nothing at all, so you will likely receive a modification if you support your claim with proper documentation.

Attempt to Reach an Agreement with the Other Parent

Open communication can reduce tension and build trust in regards to making child support payments.

No matter how amicable or hostile your relationship is with your ex, it is critical to speak openly with him/her about your financial situation. You can try to resolve the issue informally without litigation.

Inform your ex that your situation has changed and you cannot afford to make payments. Explain that you’re applying to the Department of Child Support Services for a modification.

If an agreement cannot be reached directly with your ex, then it may also be helpful to use alternative dispute resolution resources, such as family law mediation. Doing so could provide an objective voice of reason and a confidential forum for resolving the dispute in a timelier and affordable manner compared to court litigation.

Go to Court

If an agreement cannot be reached, then the only option may be to proceed with a post-judgment modification action in the family court. You will need to file a post-judgment motion or request for order with the court. A copy of the motion will need to be served to the other party.

Hire a lawyer who specializes in support modification, or ask the court to appoint you an attorney if you cannot afford one yourself. Once you appear in court, you need to show why you couldn’t pay child support.

Gather as much as evidence as possible, such as proof of income (e.g. pay stubs and tax returns), a list of employers, a list of places you’ve looked for work if you’re unemployed, living expenses you must pay, and a note from your doctor if you’re unable to work due to disability. Prepare to show the court this evidence and argue that you had a legitimate reason for missing payments. The court will treat your case accordingly and determine a different payment plan based on your current situation.

If you are interested in modifying your current child support order in Murrieta, contact Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich and request a free consultation with our experienced family law attorney today.

Categories: Divorce, Family Law