Who pays child support if both of us are unemployed?

Question: If the wife is unemployed and the husband loses his job while under the court order to pay child support and maintenance, what will happen?

Would he still have to pay child support and maintenance even if he can’t find another job?



Although I am licensed to practice law in Michigan, Cordell & Cordell has many attorneys in Colorado, and I strongly encourage you to consult with an attorney in your state because I can only give you general information. You should not rely upon this information as creating an attorney-client relationship, and you should seek counsel in your area for further instructions and suggestions within the parameters of the laws of your state.

That being said, there are common themes in child support cases among states, one of which is that child support is usually modifiable if a parent loses his job. However, the court may impute income, such as minimum wage, or may determine that he is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed and impute more. The imputation criteria vary by state.

Unfortunately, your situation is not unique – with our downtrodden economy, I see more and more cases of parents struggling to pay child support when they lose their job. Each case is unique, however, because the outcome is always fact-specific; there are no bright-line rules for support modifications.

You should consult with an attorney in your area to discuss what options, if any, you have based on the particular orders and facts in your case.


Jennifer M. Paine is an Associate Attorney in the Detroit, Michigan office of Cordell & Cordell P.C. She is licensed to practice in Michigan, and has been admitted pro hac vice in Illinois, Ohio, and the United States Court of Federal Claims. Ms. Paine received her BA in English and Mathematics from Albion College and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She received her Juris Doctorate from MSU College of Law and graduated Summa Cum Laude.

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2 comments on “Who pays child support if both of us are unemployed?

    One option for your children is to make sure they get a pre-nup to protect their interests. A prenuptial agreement, antenuptial agreement, or premarital agreement, commonly abbreviated to prenup or prenup, is a contract entered into marriage and or a civil union or any other agreement prior to the main agreement by the people intending to marry or contract with each other. The content of a prenuptial agreement can vary widely, but commonly includes provisions of division or property and spousal support in the event of divorce or breakup of marriage.

    They may also include terms for the forfeiture of assets as a result of divorce on the grounds of adultery; further conditions of guardianship may be included as well. A pre-nup is commonly prepared in order to protect assets of both parties, as one party may enter the marriage with significantly more assets than the other. A pre-nup is always a good tool to protect the financial future of children from prior marriages or relationships.

    Prenuptial agreements in all U.S. states are not allowed to regulate issues relating to the children of the marriage, in particular, custody and access of the minor children. The reason behind this is that matters involving children must be decided in the children’s best interests. Judges could not enforce a previously decided Parenting Plan, as said Plan may be written prior to the birth of the child, or the parties’ current situation.

    Prenuptial agreements are, at best, a partial solution to circumventing some of the risks of marital property disputes in times of divorce. They protect minimal assets and are not always the final word. Nevertheless, they can be very powerful and limit parties’ property rights and alimony. It is difficult to convince a Judge to set aside a properly drafted and executed pre-nup. A pre-nup can dictate not only what happens if the parties divorce, but when they die.

    How to advise male teens
    As a lawyer, what would you tell your teen son about the financial side of the marriage contract? I have two sons and the idea of their getting married, having a child and the woman finding she “no longer needs a man” terrifying. I know a woman who got pregnant, did not stay with the father and received child support for the next 18 years. She COULD have stayed with the baby daddy, she just found it simpler not to have a man in her life.

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