Question: I am currently paying $1,000 in child support monthly and I just lost my job in this lousy economy. Can I get a temporary stay on support payments until I’m re-employed? How do I make payments if I have no income? What should be the first thing I do, so that I don’t go into arrears?
Answer: You should immediately contact a domestic litigations attorney to discuss a motion to modify support. I do not practice in Missouri, however, we have many attorneys licensed and located in Missouri. Each state varies as to how income available for support is calculated. Since you are involuntarily unemployed, you should seek a modification as soon as possible as there has been a substantial change in circumstances. If you are receiving unemployment compensation, you may be able to modify the monthly support obligation applying your state’s child support formula using the amount you receive in unemployment as opposed to the amount you were previously earning.
Each parent has an obligation to support their children. Some states impute income to a parent paying support based on the person’s earning capacity. Therefore, in addition to seeking a modification, you should be sure to continue to look for work and document your efforts to prove you are actively seeking employment.
If you do not seek a modification, the present order of $1,000 per month in support stands. If you are not making payments, you are accumulating arrears. Failure to pay support may result in your ex filing a motion for contempt or, if the arrears are significant, a prosecutor may bring criminal charges. Therefore, to protect yourself against these actions, the first thing you should do is contact a domestic litigation attorney to discuss your options for modifying support in your state.
Erica Christian is an Associate Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin office of Cordell & Cordell, P.C. She is licensed to practice law in the state of Wisconsin. She is a member of the Wisconsin Bar Association, the Family Law Section and the Children’s Law Section.