Losing your job or business can be quite frightening, especially if you have children. Unemployment can have a devastating effect on your ability to continue to pay child support. If you are the non-custodial parent, you need to keep in mind that the child support order remains in effect even if you don’t have any income.
It is also essential to understand how child support is calculated and how it will affect your finances. Typically, a person’s child support obligation is calculated based on his/her imputed income other than their actual income.
This week’s post covers everything you need to know about paying child support even if you don’t have an income.
Understanding Imputed Income
Every family court has to deal with tough financial calculations when determining how much child support should be paid to the custodial parent. Typically, the amount of child support that the court will order the non-custodial parent to pay will depend on a wide range of factors.
This includes the parents’ income and the number of kids involved. Although both parents’ income levels are subject to change based on layoffs, raises, moving, promotions, and even quitting jobs, the non-custodial parent may report lower income purposely to avoid paying a high amount of child support.
To deal with this issue, family courts often use imputed income as the main factor in calculating child support. The court moves to assign income to a parent who has reported little or no income at all. It will then determine what the parent could have earned if he/she could be working up to his/her maximum capability.
This process is referred to as imputing an income of a minimum wage job. The non-custodial parent is then ordered to pay an amount of child support coinciding with the level of imputed income.
In simple words, if you don’t have an income, the court will calculate your income based on your past work history or potential earning capacity. It may look at your previous work history and earnings to establish how much you can earn in the future.
In other words, your child support obligation mostly depends on your ability to work or find similar work, whether inside or outside your profession.
What Happens If You Were Working and You Lose Your Job?
If you were working at the time the child support was awarded and you become unemployed later, you will still be required to pay your child support. Your responsibilities won’t change unless you file appropriate motions with the court.
If you file a motion and the court accepts it, the presiding judge may impute your income afresh at a minimum wage, or they may re-evaluate your work history, analyze your skills and decide how much money you should be earning at the moment.
A vocational expert may be involved at this stage, but they are costly. A vocational expert is a person qualified to make a proper determination on the amount of money you should be making based on your experience and skill set.
What Happens If You Try To Avoid Paying Child Support?
Trying to avoid paying your child support will only make things worse. Some individuals will quit their jobs purposely in an attempt to dodge paying child support. If you fail to remit child support payments without filing appropriate court motions, the court may hold you for contempt.
The consequences of being charged with contempt of court orders can be dire. The family court may set a purge amount for you to pay in lieu of being thrown behind bars.
Keep in mind that the court may also “intercept” your funds from different sources other than your employer and send them to your ex-spouse to cater to your kids’ needs.
It means that the huge tax refund you may be expecting could easily be taken by your state and transferred to your partner to ensure your child support payment is met in part or full.
What Happens If You Cannot Afford to Pay Child Support?
Sometimes, life happens, and things become genuinely hard to a point where you can no longer honor your child support obligations. So, what do you need to do in such a case? Do you choose not to make the payments and wait for the consequences or informally arrange a modification with your ex-spouse allowing you to pay whatever you can afford?
Unfortunately, both decisions are wrong. If you fail to make timely payments of your child support, it means that the payments will accrue. This will give your ex-spouse the right to file for contempt action to enforce child support, costing you more money in litigation costs and attorney fees.
Making an informal arrangement with your ex-spouse doesn’t mean you are honoring your child support obligation. Legally, you are not making any payment since only a court-approved modification is recognized.
Therefore, if you cannot afford to make child support payments completely, make sure you speak to an experienced family attorney to learn your options. It is the only way of ensuring that you are taking the right steps.
Filing for modification may not be a straightforward process, but it works. All you have to do is acquire legal representation and submit your modification request to the court as soon as possible.
Talk to an Experienced Divorce Attorney Today for Assistance
We understand that nobody plans for unforeseen financial emergencies in life. Unfortunately, the need to support your kids and honor your child support payments doesn’t change when you no longer have an income.
Since child support payments can last for long, the non-custodial parent’s obligations must be calculated based on proper figures. If you are having trouble meeting your child support obligations and want to file for a modification, we are here to help you.
Contact us today to speak to an experienced divorce attorney who will evaluate your case and advise you accordingly.