020 – Modifying your Child Support
This week on the podcast we talk about a story from a case I observed a while back about a father who lost his job and fell (WAY!) behind on his child support. Not because he wanted to, but because he lost his job and with the work he was able to find wasn’t able to provide for his basic needs much less child support. This is a cautionary tale and one I would hope you learn from – not repeat!
This was an unusual divorce. The husband and wife really got along quite well and were able to resolve all of their issues without both hiring a lawyer and dropping bombs on one another. Instead, they reached a complete agreement, got the divorce resolved quickly and smoothly and both moved on. As part of the agreement, Husband was ordered to pay child support. That was not a problem because he wanted to support his kids and make sure they could keep up a similar lifestyle they had enjoyed while he was married to their mother. Things went along swimmingly for a few years.
Then, the bottom dropped out of the economy and the job that had provided so well for him and his family through the years was gone. But, rather than seeking legal advice and getting some help, he scraped and clawed his way to find some work, but he wasn’t able to keep up with his child support obligation and every week fell further behind. His former wife was patient for a while; however, anyone’s patience will run out eventually.
She eventually filed a rule to show cause seeking to hold the dad in contempt of court for failure to pay his child support that was now in arrears over $20,000! But, dad didn’t get legal representation then either. He kept sticking his head in the sand and hoping things would get better. They didn’t! He was held in contempt of court and sentenced to 90 days in county jail, ordered to pay the total arrears and ordered to pay over $5,000 in attorney fees to his former wife’s lawyer.
All because he didn’t do anything.
Typically, court orders related to children (e.g. custody, visitation, and child support) can be modified by showing there has been a substantial change in the parties’ circumstances. A lot of times a change or loss of a job can meet this requirement. It can be considered even more reasonable if you are not seeking a permanent modification, but a temporary one to allow you to get back on your feet and find another job.
The moral of the story? If you find yourself without a job or with a new major medical issue (or some other change in your circumstances that prevents you from being able to hold up your support obligation) do something about it. Schedule a meeting with a lawyer in your jurisdiction so you can get help and not find yourself in the same predicament as our friend in the story.
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