Child support is a program to help protect children from poverty if their parents don’t stay together. As a parent, you have support obligations to your children that reflect how much parenting time you have, the needs of your kids and your income.
Sometimes, parents have difficult experiences after a divorce. Losing your job or getting laid off might mean a sudden and unexpected loss of income. You may not be able to pay child support until you find another job.
Unfortunately, your support obligations continue to accrue even when you can’t make payments. What should you do to avoid going into arrears and falling behind on your payments in such a way that you will likely never catch back up again?
You can ask the Florida Court to modify the support order
Given that child support reflects the details of your family circumstances, when your situation changes, your support requirements can change too. You will need evidence of the change, such as paperwork from your employer about your layoff or termination. You will likely also have to disclose to the courts any short-term income, like unemployment, that you receive while looking for new work.
If the change in your income is enough, the courts may reduce your support obligations. Even if you have no income, however, they will not reduce the required support amount to zero. You will still have to pay, just a smaller amount. Once you go back to better-paying work, you will then need to revisit the amount of support you pay.
Don’t wait to fall behind before taking action
One of the biggest mistakes that a support-paying parent can make when going through financial hardship is deciding to wait until they can’t handle things anymore to ask for a modification.
In most cases, modifications are not retroactive. If you wait nine months to file for a change, you will probably still owe those nine months of support even after the courts change your current obligations. You could accrue so much unpaid support that you may struggle for months to get out of arrears.
Rather than trying to pay your child support out of savings, the smarter approach might be to request a modification as soon as your income dips so that your support obligations realistically reflect your current budget and income.