Can I Pay Less Child Support if I Lose My Job?

When someone loses a job, they might evaluate where they can cut financial corners while they search for their next role. They should not unilaterally decide to reduce or stop paying child support.

Doing so can land them in legal trouble. A judge can hold a non-paying parent in contempt of court and impose penalties like the suspension of the driver’s license and property liens.

Anyone experiencing a substantial change in circumstances – like losing a job – can petition the court to modify their child support payments.

Modifying Child Support Payments

A decrease in income can be grounds to lower child support payments in certain circumstances. The petition is typically filed in the Family Court of the county where the parent or child lives. The filing will include why the change is necessary.

There are three reasons on which to base a modification request:

  • A substantial change in circumstances
  • 3 years have passed since the order was entered or last modified
  • Either parent’s gross income changed by 15% or more since the order was entered or last modified

What is considered “substantial” is left to interpretation. Our skilled attorneys at Samuelson Hause PLLC can evaluate your specific situation and illustrate why the change is significant enough to warrant a modification. The court will want to see evidence that the petitioning parent has made diligent efforts to find work commensurate with their education and experience.

Someone who is fired for misconduct or voluntarily quits their job will typically not be eligible for a modification. If the court believes the income loss was intentional, there will be no change in child support.

Deducting Child Support from Unemployment Benefits

When someone loses a job, they often apply for unemployment benefits. This is income from which child support can be deducted. If someone is not working because of a workplace injury, child support can also be garnished from worker's compensation. Public assistance does not count as income toward paying child support.

Providing Child Support Is Legal Duty

New York law stipulates that both parents are expected to provide financially for their children. A noncustodial parent with an income below the federal poverty level may be ordered to pay $25 per month in child support. If their income is below the New York State Self-Support Reserve, child support can be $50 per month.

Owing Back Child Support

Any unpaid child custody will continue to add up until and if the court approves a change to the support order. The court has the authority to make a change in child support retroactive to the date of the petition. However, any unpaid amount due before that time must be paid in full.

Calculating Child Support

Whenever a court is determining child support, the law requires certain factors to be considered. Income is only one of those factors.

New York judges evaluate the following elements when determining child support:

  • The financial resources of each parent
  • Whether one parent's gross income is substantially less than the other parent
  • The child's physical, emotional health, and special needs
  • The standard of living the child had during the marriage
  • The tax consequences for each spouse
  • Non-financial contributions parents make toward caring for the child
  • The educational needs of either parent

The considerations and the number of children needing support are used to calculate child support.

Legal Counsel to Modify Child Support

Samuelson Hause PLLC is a practice dedicated to divorce and family law matters in New York. We have more than 100 years of collective experience in helping clients achieve favorable outcomes. Every family is different. The circumstances of each case are unique. Our strategy is based on your specific needs and not a generic template. You will receive personalized strategies for whatever family law issue you face.

Contact us if you want to investigate modifying an order for child support, child custody, or spousal maintenance. Call (516) 584-4685 to schedule a confidential consultation.