If you were ordered by the Court to pay child support and you’re not paying child support, the repercussions can be serious.  Paying child support is an order of the court and not following an order of the court can lead to a finding of contempt.  What does that mean?  It means you could be made to pay your ex’s attorneys fees, be fined, or worse, put in jail.  It can also lead to the revocation of your driver’s license or passport, withholding of your income tax return, and even result in liens on your property. Child support attorneys frequently offer free consultations so that potential clients can find out details on how to stay out of trouble with the courts.

How is Child Support Calculated?

During your divorce proceedings, an Order for Child Support was likely entered with the court that determined the amount of child support you are ordered to pay.  The calculation was determined by using one of a handful of methods such as the Melson Formula, Income Shares Model (most popular), or a percentage of your net income. All of these child support calculations (depending on what state you are in) calculates your net income less any allowable deductions to determine the amount you owe based on the number of children you have and typically, the mount of parenting time (visitation) you might have. The court may deviate from the statutory calculation if it is determined that following the calculation does not provide the minimum support needed for care of the child or children.

Child Support Can Be Increased

Some examples of situations that may require a larger amount owed for child support are: (i) if the child or children have special needs that require additional funding for education, housing and care; or (ii) additional funds are needed to award the child or children with the same quality of life they would have experienced had the marriage not ended. Remember, the intent of child support is to support your child or children, and as such, the court expects both parents to contribute financially. Not paying child support means, in the eyes of the court, that you are not supporting your children, and judges oftentimes throw the book at non-payors.

Not Paying Child Support Because You Lost Your Job

If you were fired from your job due to “Cause,” (that means the reason you were fired was your fault), more than likely the Court will still expect you pay your ordered share of support.  If you lost your job through no fault of your own, the best thing to do is to be transparent – and to do something about it quickly.  In either situation, you have lost your source of income, and as a result your child or children will not be receiving a portion of their financial support they require. 

How can you be transparent? Explain to your ex that you lost your job, offer to help support your child or children any way you can.  This may mean you take the kids instead of a sitter to save on after school care.  It may also mean the kids have to cut back on extracurricular activities or buying things that are not necessary.  Be proactive in finding a new job. Your kids and the court expect you to contribute your fair share.  Just because you lost or quit your job does not mean the court automatically gives you a pass at paying or allow you to lower your child support

Filing a Motion to Modify Support – Immediately

If you’ve lost your job you need to contact your attorney to file a Motion To Modify Support. This will be a temporary motion that is entered to modify the amount paid for support. In some situations, you can even ask that child support be “temporarily abated.” This means that the amount isn’t just temporarily lowered, it is set to $0.00 for a short amount of time (probably only a couple months). Again, this is only for situations where you lost your job through no fault of your own, and after the Judge determines it is appropriate to decrease the amount paid for child support. Not paying child support and not filing a motion with the court quickly can lead to potential contempt of court hearings – this is where you can lose your drivers license or even go to jail Ask quickly!

Next Steps

In summary, if you have kids, the non-custodial parent is required by law to contribute to the financial care of the child or children.   Things happen and people lose their jobs. Of course, the reason behind losing your job will determine whether a Motion to Modify Child Support is granted by the court.  The best thing to do is to be open with your ex and call your attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options. Remember, most child support lawyers offer free consultations for people not paying child support to explain their states rules. Act quickly and be smart – your future depends on it.

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