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Do I Pay Child Support If I’m Unemployed?

Despite being separated from your spouse, you love your children and want to do everything in your power to take care of them. So when you lose your job, it can shake your entire world and make providing for your family a huge source of stress. The reason for this is that child support orders are still effective if you, as the non-custodial parent, become unemployed. 
When these payments start becoming impossible for you to pay, you’ll likely have many questions. Collins Family Law Group is accustomed to resolving confusion surrounding the matter of unemployment and child support. Here are some answers to regularly asked questions and concerns about paying child support when unemployed.

How Does Child Support Work When the Father Has No Job?

It’s common for parents to ask, “Does a father have to pay child support if he is unemployed?” The answer is a firm “yes.” Under-employment and even unemployment do not invalidate a standing child support order; you are still expected to make these payments monthly. If you no longer have a steady flow of income and miss a payment, this payment is still owed and accrues interest. You could also incur fees or jail time, as courts do not consider favorably those who evade their responsibility, whether intentional or not.

Child Support Modification on Imputed Income

You can request an adjustment to your child support order, but the court will base new child support amounts on your opportunity and ability to find similar-paying work using your previous employment as a benchmark for what you may be able to earn in the future. This is what the courts refer to as “imputed income.” In this case, child support payments are based on the parent’s ability, willingness, and opportunity to work as well as their earning capacity (past jobs, education level, skillset, etc.). 

If the unemployed parent can work, has sufficient opportunity, and is earnestly seeking another job, the court can make an educated guess as to what kind of salary the person could earn, and impute the amount. If there’s insufficient evidence to determine how much the parent could potentially earn, the judge may impute the minimum wage. Each case will have a unique outcome based on the parent’s circumstances.

What If the Noncustodial Parent Can’t Afford the Payments?

Many non-custodial parents who can’t afford their monthly payments sometimes turn to their ex-spouse to informally arrange to pay what they can, or worse, they do not pay at all. Both of these actions could put you in contempt of court and lead to fines or even litigation. The only safe way to renegotiate these payments is through a court-approved modification of child support. If your situation comes to this, you should speak with a child support attorney to discuss your circumstances. You may be eligible for unemployment benefits, which could help with paying child support when unemployed.

How Do I Pay Child Support on Unemployment Benefits?

To find out if you qualify for unemployment benefits, you should check with the state of NC or SC and get in contact with the unemployment office to show them your outstanding child support payments. For those who are eligible, the state government will deduct these payments from your unemployment wages. If you are ineligible for unemployment benefits because you are intentionally avoiding work or are simply underemployed, the court will defer to the amounts you could be earning, or imputed income, to calculate your payments.

In the meantime, you are strongly advised to be highly proactive about finding a new job and maintaining intensive communication with the court during your search. Once you’ve secured employment, you must continue paying child support with physical checks until the payments can be taken directly from your wages. Be prepared for the payment amounts to increase to account for your time spent unemployed.

Modifications to Child Support Orders in NC and SC

If you’ve found yourself truly unable to make anything work and simply cannot pay your child support, it is your responsibility to notify the court. Your child support order can only be changed upon your request for modification. A lawyer can help you file this promptly so you aren’t late on any payments.

In NC and SC, courts will usually allow you to amend your child support order if there has been a significant change in your financial standing since the order was issued. More specifically, these states require that your ability to pay must be diminished by 15% or more to qualify for child support adjustment. Modifications are usually made through mediation.

Consult With Qualified Child Support Lawyers in NC and SC

In any case, child support is all about your child’s best interests and courts always rule in favor of their needs. When you feel that you are no longer able to meet those needs, talk to one of our experienced attorneys. We’re available to answer your questions and help you with mediation if you qualify for a child support modification in NC or SC. Request a consultation today.