Lost My Job. Should I Pay Child Support?
“Lost my job. Should I pay child support?” is a question our potential clients ask often, especially in these economic times.
In a word, the answer is “yes.”
If there is a court order in place requiring you to pay a certain amount of child support per month, even if you have lost your job, you still must pay child support until “something” happens. The “something” that needs to happen is a modification of the current order by your assigned judge or commissioner.
TO BE CLEAR: unless and until a judge tells you that you do not have to pay any child support, YOU DO. Job or no job.
Is there a way to reduce your child support obligation? Yes. How?
The first thing to do is to file a motion telling the court “I have lost my job. Stop child support.” This seems like it should be enough, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, losing a job in and of itself won’t be enough to get you a child support modification.
According to the Arizona Child Support Guidelines, you must show a substantial and continuing change in circumstances to get a modification of your current child support order. Losing a job is a SUBSTANTIAL change in circumstances, but that is only half of what you need. You also need a CONTINUING change in circumstances. In other words, your unemployment needs to be something that is CONTINUING.
Filing for a modification 2 weeks after you lose your job is not a continuing change in circumstances. In my experience, neither is 2 months. Based upon my past cases, before a judge will consider your situation to be continuing, you will need to go at least 6 months without employment before you MIGHT get a modification of your support obligation. And, even if you do get a modification, the chances are that it won’t be modified to $0 (unless your ex agrees AND the judge thinks it is in the best interest of the children).
Not only that, but getting a change in child support is not just a matter of waiting for the days to fly by until you hit the 6 month mark. While you are waiting, you must actively search for new work. I guarantee that once you get to your child support modification hearing, a judge will want to know how many jobs you have applied for, how much time you have spent job searching, and in what industry you are doing your job searching. It will work out best if you can provide the court with documentation which SHOWS all of your efforts (applications, a log of calls made, a log of interviews completed, a copy of your resume and cover letter, etc.) If a judge believes you taken little to no initiative to find work, there is a strong possibility that your child support will not be modified at all.
So, to summarize, if you just got canned and you are wondering to yourself “Lost my job–Do I pay child support?”, I am telling you “YES, continue to pay child support.” My next best advice to you in this scenario is to get on the internet and find out who is hiring. Start pounding the pavement TODAY.
If you do this, the best thing that can happen is that you will find a job! The worst thing that can happen is that the judge will see how hard you have been trying and cut you a break when it comes to modifying your monthly obligation.