Do you still have to pay child support if you are unemployed?
If you are under a court order to pay child support and you lose your job, you are still under a court order to pay child support until the court modifies that order. Child support continues until the minor becomes an adult, and the amount of child support that must be paid remains the same until the court changes it.
In this article, we will provide some information that may be helpful to anyone who is paying child support and becomes unemployed, including:
- How to get the court to modify your child support obligation,
- The concept of voluntary impoverishment and imputed earnings,
- Whether you can modify alimony payments if you are unemployed, and
- Whether your benefits can be garnished if you lose your job.
How Do I Pay Child Support if I’m Unemployed?
How do you pay child support if you are unemployed? You may not be able to – but you are still obligated to pay the full amount and your back child support may be adding up if you are missing payments or making partial payments.
If you have lost your job and are unable to make your child support payments as ordered, it is your obligation to immediately file a motion asking the court to modify the amount that you must pay based on your change in circumstances.
The Family Court Can Modify Your Child Support if You are Unemployed
Child support in SC is calculated using the SC Child Support Guidelines, and your income is one of the biggest factors in determining how much you are required to pay. If your income has substantially decreased, the court can change your child support obligation based on the change in circumstances.
You may have to explain to the court why you lost your job and why you cannot get another job at the same pay, and you may need to show the court that you are searching for comparable work.
If you are receiving unemployment or other benefits, or if you have taken another job that pays less money, the court will consider your current income in revising your child support obligation.
Voluntary Impoverishment and Imputed Earnings
If you quit your job, or you cannot provide a good reason why you are not working or looking for work with comparable pay, the court may not be inclined to modify your child support obligation.
You cannot just decide not to work or take a lower-paying job to avoid making your child support payments, and, if you 1) do not have a good reason for losing your job and 2) are not attempting to find a job with comparable pay, the court may decide that this is a case of “voluntary impoverishment,” impute your potential earnings to you, and refuse to reduce your child support.
Do I Have to Pay Alimony if I Lost My Job?
What about alimony?
Alimony payments can be reduced based on unemployment sometimes.
For example, like child support, permanent periodic alimony can be reduced based on a change in circumstances, but lump sum or reimbursement alimony cannot. Rehabilitative alimony can sometimes be reduced based on a change in circumstances.
How Can a Child Support Lawyer Help If I Lost My Job?
If you cannot pay child support because you are unemployed, or if your former spouse is refusing to pay child support, your child support lawyer on the Axelrod team can help by 1) asking the court to modify your child support obligation or 2) asking the court to enforce your former spouse’s child support order.
Child Support Modifications if You are Unemployed
If you have become unemployed and can no longer pay your child support obligations, you need to petition the court for a modification immediately.
Your child support attorney on the Axelrod team can help you by:
- Reviewing the circumstances that led to your inability to pay,
- Gathering evidence to prove to the court that you are unable to pay and that it is not a case of voluntary impoverishment (evidence of disability, injury, or inability to find comparable work), and
- Petitioning the court for a modification of your child support order.
Child Support Enforcement Actions
On the other hand, if your former spouse has stopped paying child support, your child support lawyer can ask the court to force them to pay by:
- Holding them in contempt of court,
- Seizing property,
- Garnishing their wages,
- Suspending their occupational or business license, or
- Suspending their driver’s license.
Can My Benefits Be Garnished for Child Support if I Lost My Job?
If you are under a court order to pay child support, your wages can be garnished.
If you are unemployed, your benefits can also sometimes be garnished – including worker’s compensation benefits and Social Security and Disability Benefits (SSD), but Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits can only be garnished with your consent.
Why You Should Not Delay
When you file a motion to reduce your child support payments, the court’s order will only reduce your payments going forward. This means that you will still owe the back child support from the months before your court hearing.
If you find yourself unemployed and it is not likely that your income will return to its previous level, call your SC child support lawyer on the Axelrod team immediately – delay can only hurt you by increasing the amount of back child support that you owe.
If you are unable to pay child support or alimony because you are unemployed, call your SC child support lawyer at Axelrod and Associates for a consultation. We will review your situation and file a motion to modify your child support when appropriate.