The recession has really hit home. In family courts across the country, a surge of parents stung by the economy are coming back to plead for a reduction in their child support payment obligation, and it’s affecting the courts as well as the kids.
The courts are being flooded with modification cases. If the person responsible for paying child support loses his or her job and is financially incapable of making payments, the hardship can be devastating to all parties affected. If the court reduces the original payment amount, the burden extends to the custodial parent who relies on that money to survive and provide necessities like food, shelter and clothing. If the court doesn’t reduce the amount, the payor could end up in jail for failing to pay child support. Nobody wins. As layoffs continue to occur, more people are going to court to have their child support agreements changed. Pressure is mounting in the courts due to the increased volume and complexity of cases in which people attempt to modify and renegotiate their court-ordered support payments.
WHAT ARE THE COURTS TO DO?
Presented with evidence of depleted incomes, layoffs, home foreclosures and mounting expenses, a judge often has no other choice but to grant a decreased adjustment in child support even though the custodial parent is struggling to support the kids. It is difficult, but fairness somehow has to be determined.
HOW IS SUPPORT CALCULATED?
The guidelines for child support vary from state-to-state. They generally take into account the income of both parents, the number of children, standard of living and considerations for a particular child’s special needs.
HOW DOES A MODIFICATION WORK?
It takes a new court order to alter the existing order. In the event of a layoff or a reduction in pay, support may be reduced but only if a motion is filed for review and the court approves the modification.
It’s important to note that the court order for child support will continue to be enforced even after a job loss. It doesn’t automatically end when the source of income ends. The courts typically order the obligor to pay a portion of their unemployment benefits in child support. If their unemployment runs out and they have no income, the amount can be reduced or even temporarily suspended. The modification process begins with consulting with an experienced family law attorney and contacting the child support division. It is important to remember that the modification review process can take some time.
Along with the hardship facing parents struggling to meet child support obligations, the courts are also struggling to overcome the burden of burgeoning caseloads. The ability to remain flexible and open to creative solutions is crucial until the economy stabilizes or at least allows for breathing room.