Child support is often ordered when parents are no longer living under the same roof. The parent who makes the most income may be under a court order to provide for a minor child until they are 18 (or out of college, in some cases). The family court system takes this obligation quite seriously and the parents who fall behind on child support can face dire consequences. You must take an assertive tact with back child support because otherwise, you might find yourself arrested, with a suspended driver's license, with wages garnished, and more. There are things you can do when you fall behind so read on for some tips on coping with this situation.
- Even if you cannot afford to pay the full ordered amount of child support, pay what you can. You will be in arrears but paying something shows a good faith attempt. It also keeps the amount of back child support as low as possible.
- If you cannot afford to pay due to a considerable change in circumstances, you should take legal action to have the support order altered. A judge ordered the original child support and only a judge can alter that order.
- Although you might be successful in reducing the sum you owe on a regular basis, nothing takes away the arrears child support you still owe. In some cases, payment plans are available if you contact and work with the child support enforcement agency in your area. Doing nothing at all is the worst decision you can make, however, and is not an option.
- Requesting a modification to have the support amount changed can be complicated and you will need to contact a family law attorney for help. They will know what to do when they file the motion and also know how to show proof in court of your inability to pay the ordered amount.
- If you cannot afford a private lawyer, check with your State Bar Association to find out about pro bono legal help or reduced cost help from legal advocacy groups.
- The courts are primed to put the best interest of the child first and to convince a judge to lower the ordered amount is challenging. You must show that your financial situation makes it impossible to pay the ordered sum.
- While you are waiting for your hearing, be in touch with your co-parent. They need to have a heads-up so they can adjust their budgets accordingly if you get the modification.
- Bring as much proof of your financial situation with you as you can gather. That might include documentation of a job loss, proof you've filed for unemployment, pay statements showing your current income, medical expense information if you have a serious medical condition, etc. Hard financial proof of a change in your status is what is needed. Otherwise, it looks like you are trying to avoid paying what you owe.
Speak to a family law attorney as soon as possible if you need to modify a child support order.