Options for Child Support When Unemployed

By Andrea Johnson

Attorney, Cordell & Cordell

With the current economic situation, many unemployed divorced dads cannot afford child support payments.

Some just pay what they can for a period of time until they find another job.  Others make informal agreements with their former spouse about a temporary modification.

Both of these courses of action are wrong.

If you choose to just pay what you can while you are looking for a new job, you are going to begin to accrue an arrearage which could lead to your child’s mother filing a contempt action.

If this happens, it’s likely you will end up owing significantly more money in addition to court fees and the costs for litigation. For example, if you have an arrearage of $3,000 and your former spouse files a contempt action, there is no way you are going to get around being required to pay back the arrearage amount.

Cordell & Cordell understands the concerns men face during divorce.

Additionally, if the court finds you in contempt for failure to pay the ordered child support amount, you are likely going to be ordered to pay your former spouse’s legal expenses in the contempt action. The theory behind this is that they would not have otherwise incurred the expense except for their need to collect child support arrears.

You are also likely going to incur legal fees of your own, as it is never wise to walk into a courtroom on a contempt case unrepresented. So what began as a $3,000 arrearage can easily turn into a $10,000 obligation with jail time as the option for non-payment. This is definitely not the best option.

If you choose to make an informal agreement with your former spouse, it may work for a while and things may go according to your agreement. However, you should know your informal agreement did absolutely nothing to change your court-ordered obligation.

This means that in spite of your agreement, your spouse can come back at any time and hold you in contempt for failure to pay the court-ordered amount. Rest assured this will happen.

She may be nice for a while, but that will last only until her pocketbook tightens. She will see the money you did not as an easy collection to get her finances back on track. Then comes the contempt case. Again, not the best option for you.

If you have lost your job, are receiving a reduced salary, or otherwise have an involuntary loss of income, you need to file a petition for modification of child support immediately.

In the state I practice in (Georgia), the law allows for a modification of a child support order when there has been a substantial change in circumstances of either party warranting a recalculation of child support. This includes your involuntary loss of income. It may also include a significant increase of the custodial parent’s income, as well.

What’s the advantage of immediately filing a modification action?

In Georgia and likely other states, the court may modify the child support order beginning at the time of the filing of the petition for modification of support. Additionally, the filing of the petition for modification will likely protect you from facing a contempt action.

Understand, however, that the Court has the discretion to not retroactively modify a support order back to the date of filing. You are more likely to obtain a favorable decision on retroactive modification if you file right away and allow little to no arrearage to accrue prior to the filing.

By immediately filing a modification action, this will protect you and prevent possible additional charges from incurring that you would not otherwise owe.

Cordell & Cordell has men’s divorce lawyers located nationwide should you seek legal representation.

men's divorce lawyer Andrea JohnsonAndrea M. Johnson is a Senior Attorney in the Atlanta, Georgia office of Cordell & Cordell, where she practices domestic relations exclusively. Ms. Johnson is licensed to practice law in the state of Georgia. Ms. Johnson was born in the metro-Atlanta area and has spent most of her life in Georgia. She received her Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia in 1998. Ms. Johnson received her Juris Doctor from Mercer University School of Law in 2002.  Since graduating from law school, Ms. Johnson has practiced in the area of family law. Additionally, she has worked in general civil practice, immigration, and estate planning. Ms. Johnson has briefed two cases successfully before the Georgia Court of Appeals, one of which was a modification of custody action.

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18 comments on “Options for Child Support When Unemployed

    I got married 3yrs ago and my wife is a 9/11 disabled combat veteran that is blind Partial paralysis on the left side due to the fact of having a massive brain tumor removed that she got Being in a radioactive zone. We have 3 children and one of the 3 is also disabled With autism and I am no longer able to go to work due to the fact I have to care for them as well my ex wife took me to court and increased the child support and refuses to give me court ordered visitation and we can not pay she also got all of our income tax’s last year please let me know If there’s anything I can do to get some kind of help

    i need help ,aid & advice
    im homeless, constantly job hunting, filling apps out online, signing up at multiple temp services with no luck and no other options left can anyone help or point me in the right direction i have a 15 yr old son also can anyone please assist ,guide or help me
    winter is right around the corner and these streets are deadly and getting all of worse no where to turn….

    I am a veteran that helped in Mosul, Iraq. I have many different medical and phychiatric diagnosis that preventing me to be able to become employed.
    I am re-married and have 4 other children living in my home that I must provide for as well. I pay for 3 but only two are minors the other child turned
    18 y/o on August 4, 2014 and joined the marines. I currently reside in Texas but the children are located in the state of Georgia. I am very desperate considering my Ex-Wife the custodian parent. Filed for a change in child support hearing in Athens Goeriga which I cannot afford to attend because I’m broke and don’t have job. If there is anyway that you can make this your annual pro-bono case. If not can we work something out like a payment plan because I am so desperate in need of help.

    I moved my wife and 2 children from NY to GA in 2014. I transferred with my job. After 3 weeks, my wife took my children out of their home and away from me. No form of infidelity or abuse from me caused this. I had no addictions. Didnt smoke, do drugs or drink alcohol.I am a good man and a great dad. And i was a good husband to her. But she left because she could. I went through some hard and depressing moments being away from my family. I eventually lost my job. But afterward decided to go back to school.She filed child support because she was able and there was a default judegment ruling to pay $1200month. Almost 2 years have passed and the court is now requiring me to pay $1800 month which include arrears. As an Uber driver and going to school. I only made about $1000 a month. Certainly not enough to live on especially with my teenage daughter(from a previous relationship) i also care for. I now owe about $25,000 in back child support. I now have a job getting paid $10hr. And there is no way i can pay this amount. I have failed to pay this amount because i just dont have the ability to do so. And because i am financially unable or incapable, i guess i am now considered a criminal. I speak to my little children everyday, ages 6 and 4. I am their hero. They love me. But my wife who has finally filed papers will not try to work with me. She wants blood. She wants me to go to jail. She wants me to die. And the judicial system somehow allows fathers like myself to be railroaded and mistreated unjustly.

    Im sure there are cases when people that are able, choose not to be bothered and neglect their children. But that isnt the case with me. What i lack in funds i more than make up for in teaching, encouraging and leading my children as they grow and develop into educated diligent persons of integrity, valour and honor. Although money is needed to provide. There is so much more to parenting than just money. And when the judicial system states they do whats in the best interest for the children, they fail to factor in that money isnt everything and issue a death sentence to fathers who have insufficient funds.

    I just want my life back. I live in fear everyday that i can go to jail at any point an moment all because i dont have money. Unfortunately being poor or financially incapable is a crime. So fathers out there who are suffering and cant get any help or have enough money for these retainer fees for lawyers. Be encouraged, keep telling yaour stories and hope that somehow the right persons hear and respond by making a change for our benefit and our childrens. A father is no good if he is away from his children. And jailtime or suspending a license certainly isnt a remedy for them. Making us more incapable on top of our dilemmas only hurts the children even more.

    Not only are our families broken but so is the system that is supposedly set to remedy and serve all us citizens.

    Well my story is I haven’t had a job in over 10yrs and I am so confused about child support cause my ex wife is a nurse and I with my record can not find work! I have college education but my record stop me from even using education for a job.. But I am very active in their lives but now I am getting talking about me going to jail. She want to stop support how do she do this process?

    im inm the same spot. at my end. dont want to give up but just no winning this. if ya found help i could use some as im out of oppti0ons and my life and freedome are in jeporty

    Just thought I’d share my experience with Judicial bias in my backwater state.

    When my family court judge set my child support order, I asked her why she wasn’t using the net income support reserve for non-custodial parents. Her response was “I’m not going to allow you to become a ‘deadbeat’, and your [unfaithful, estranged] wife [and her paramour] deserve that money!”

    I have also asked to use a special purpose checking account that both parents put money into as a child support trust, and my request has repeatedly been denied because it would have resulted in my ex-wife and I sharing the responsibility for providing for our children’s needs instead of my paying more ‘child support’ in order to provide a government mandated lifestyle for my children, and by inference, my ex-wife and her …paramour.

    We won’t get started on this family court judges fixation on increasing the gross amount of ‘child support’ collected in all circumstances or her lack of …political courage when it comes to enforcing a non-custodial parents visitation rights.

    And Her Honor (sarcasm intended) wonders why I write my legislators regularly and why I am doing everything I can to help her opponent in the next judicial election.

    Why does this concern fathers? Believe it or not, there are mother out there that don’t pay support either!

    Mother of my child doesn’t pay . We have court In a month. She refuses to pay or go to court or fill out a financial report. Any idea what will happen ?

    I have been layed off my job this week.
    I pay child support of a large amount ,which now im not able to pay ,or come close, my ex wife has a job. What can I do about lowering my child support? And if it’s lowered,do I have to pay back arrears

    My company is outsourcing and I’m about to be laid off. I’m looking for a new job, but am worried about the possibility of being unemployed and unable to make the support payments. Do I need to wait until I’m formally laid off before applying for the modification action, or is this something I can prepare ahead of time?

    I’ve been unemployed for 5 months. Petitioned the court and the judge still says that I’m to pay 1982 dollars a month. That has left me with 700 dollars a month to live on and has rendered me homeless with no help. How is this fair to the child. I’m not a deadbeat. I see my daughter every day.

    I have 2 sons aged 29 and 34. I’ve been working since highschool before I had a heart attack in 2003. With the economy so bad I didn’t find a job until 2015. I have no diploma or a G.E.D. every application was turned down. The back money is from my second child because my first child was an adult while I was working.The second child was 15 when I lost my job.They both dropped out of school before I stopped working.I owe $8000 in back payments.I’m 60 years old and I barely make ends meet let alone go to jail.HELP PLEASE! I’m from Maryland.

    My ex-husband and I have been divorced a month now and he was supposed to pay $200/month for child support because he got out of the Army and I felt sorry for him…he haven’t paid anything and the bad part is he comes to see his child once a week sometimes its two weeks and lives 10 minutes away. He makes up all types of excuses to the child why he can’t come. That’s what you call a big time DEADBEAT

    Today is the day..
    We as equal has failed to be as such in a class. These legal terms have made many men and women outlaws. From the fact of sharing a moment of passion. Our former ancestors fight to be free for this. No..!! I’d say to the people that sat there with their suits on in their high chairs. Speaking for millions of fathers and mothers. On a account of who should pay for conceiving a child together. The law is unfair, unjust, a impeachment of legal rights made legal. To only one side of the case.Laws have it as the father has no rights to the child. But legal rights to pay for the child. Eric from Arizona, says the court have in no way wanted to help him in his case. He pay two payments in the state of Arizona. Lucky him huh.. More to say that the mother no longer has the child. They have been past on to the grandmother. Thru legal actions from the courts. Basically meaning next to kin. People join the org. For fathers of unfair rights laws. Made by people who don’t understand the facts of each case. But feeds to the caregiver that don’t want to be a parent…

    That’s right guys keep current on your payments. The payments are for your kids anyway. Oh wait no they’re not. If they were really out to get money for the kids then dead beat moms would be held to the same accountability.

    Funny how when I got custody of my son it took 1.5 years to even get her to court so a payment could be awarded. Then 2.5 years later not one dollar had been paid. At this time one of the reps on the phone told me they “were thinking about revoking her drivers license.”

    Next week my there’s a hearing because my son wants to live with his mom, which is fine. Child support is already calling me, before there’s even an award.

    Interesting comparison. Oh & for what ever it’s worth she has a criminal record that’s like a short book, including assault, SSI fraud ($38,000), & a kidnapping charge .(DA did nothing though our son was in danger w/o his medication), 3 dozen visitation violations documented by local PD, & nothing happened. I’ve kept records of them all, & have the incident report from my address, not once did any agency who is supposed to be there to ensure children get support did a damn thing. I have a speeding ticket. The courts believe every false accusation she makes though every time they turn out to be unfounded, & I’m often forced to waste my time dealing with some paperwork. Her latest is she says she felt threatened, no time, place, or description & the court acted on her behalf instantly. Guess what happened when she vandalized my place & attacked me? The police sent her home.

    This article is correct, if you’re a man. They only go after men. Why? Because the people down at the court house aren’t there to set things right, they’re there for the state job with benefits.

    need help
    my child father owe $41,000 in arrears. He loss his job from illegal activities and haven’t paid in full in 7 years and now has paid at all in 1 year. He filed a modification and I filed intentional contempt not to pay. What do you think will happen in court. In those 7 years, this is the first time I am filing a violation. He has made a child, went to jail for 8 months, came out and got married and almost had another child that was miscarried.

    Voluntary unemployment
    I have a question. I took my ex-wife back to court in Jun 2012 to gain custody of our 6 year old son. I won and now have primary physical custody; she lives in North Dakota. This was a modification of the original parenting plan/divorce decree finalized in Sep 2011. She told me yesterday that she is quitting her job this summer and while she has our son for 6-weeks this summer, she is not going to pay child support. Her child support is only $200 a month, so she is not going to be paying me $300. In the big picture…no big deal. She also says she is going to file her “unemployment” status with the Georgia Child Support Office. My question is…can she file her new (voluntarily) unemployed status and not have to pay child support for those 6 weeks?

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