In many cases, if you can prove that your income has been drastically reduced – for involuntary reasons – you can have the court modify your child support order to accommodate the temporary setback (also see: bankruptcy and divorce). There are, however, a few key requirements and exceptions:
The first is that the order must be modified by the court. That is to say, you can’t just stop paying or pay reduced amounts and not expect to suffer any consequences. If you are faced with a financial hardship that you know will affect your ability to pay child support, you should consult your attorney as quickly as possible to file a motion and to request a hearing to modify the child support order.
The second exception deals with any back child support that is already due. If you have an accumulated balance of payments that were not made under the original order, it is unlikely that the judge will be able to modify your payments retroactively. This means that, while going forward you may be able to pay a reduced amount, you’ll still need to catch up the outstanding payments in full.
The last exception to this rule relates to the reason for the reduction. A financial hardship such as a layoff, an illness or some other type of emergency are all valid reasons to have your child support payments reduced. On the other hand, your inability to pay child support because you’ve taken on a larger car payment, bought a new home or any other optional type of debt will not qualify you for a lesser payment. Quite the contrary, the courts look upon child support payments as an important necessity and expect you to treat it as a priority. Poor money management or an increase in your debts because of excessive spending will not relieve you of this obligation. Likewise, if you quit your job or voluntarily take a lower-paying job, it is unlikely that the court will reduce your child support payment.