If you have been ordered to pay child support payments, the judge has looked over your income and expenses, as well as the income and expenses of your child’s other parent, to determine a fair and equitable contribution. There are some instances when you might not be able to pay your ordered child support. For example, if your expenses have risen or your income has gone down, you might find it difficult to meet all of your obligations in order to make the full child support payments. If you are in this situation, read on to find out what you can and cannot do to make things easier.
Talk to Your Ex
First, it’s important to understand that no oral agreement will be legally binding. Even if your child’s other parent agrees to allow you to skip some child support payments or pay less than you are ordered, be aware that they can always go back and declare that you are in contempt of court. Any modifications to the child support order must be approved by a judge.
With that being said, it’s a good idea to talk to your child’s other parent about your situation, if possible. You do not have to go into great detail, but letting them know that your payments are a great burden due to your change in circumstances (a job loss, medical expenses, and so on) can at least relieve some of the tension involved. It’s very possible that your ex-spouse will not be able to meet all of his or her obligations without the child support payments, so knowing ahead of time can at least give them the chance to find a way to fill in the extra income that they won’t be getting from you.
Go to the Child Support Enforcement Agency
Your very next step should be to go to the Child Support Enforcement Agency in your state. This is a federally mandated agency that can help you modify your child support orders. Each state has this agency, but it could be administered through various parent agencies, such as the Department of Health, the Attorney General’s office, the Department of Revenue, or the Department of Social Services. You can check this list and find your state, which will help you locate the local Child Support Enforcement Agency in your area.
You will need to fill out documents explaining your situation and what changed that is making it hard or impossible to meet your obligations. If there is a legitimate need for you to have your child support payments lowered, a new payment plan will probably be offered. The state would rather have you paying some child support than none at all, and they recognize that getting behind on child support is so overwhelming that some parents feel like they will never catch up and stop trying. Be honest on the forms and give the agency as much detail as possible so they can make the correct decision in your case.
Reduce Your Expenses
In some cases, the legal system will be unable or unwilling to lower your child support payments. In this case, you have a few options. One is to reduce your discretionary expenses to free up more funds for your child support payments. While you might be reluctant to do this, keep in mind that this money is going toward the housing, food, and expenses of your child. Although you might feel as though it’s going to your ex, the truth is that without this support, your child is at risk of suffering from a lack of necessities.
One way to reduce expenses is to write down everything you spend for one week to one month. Many people are surprised at where their money is going because it’s so easy to spend extra cash here and there over the course of a week or a month. If you can identify where you are spending too much (such as on expensive coffee each day or on picking up home decor items on a regular basis), that can make it simple and easy to simply reallocate where your funds are going and siphon that extra spending toward your child support payments.
Another way is to create a zero-based budget. This means that you account for each dollar that you make before you spend it. Everydollar.com is one free website that can help you do this. Before the month starts, you add up your income and spend it (on the screen) on your housing, utilities, vehicle/gasoline, and food. Whatever is left goes first toward child support and then toward your other bills and spending. Doing this ahead of time can do one of two things: Either it will prove that you legitimately do not have enough funds coming in to meet your child support obligations or it will show you that you do, in fact, have enough, as long as you stick to the budget.
Get Professional Legal Advocacy
If you cannot afford your child support payments, chances are good that you also cannot afford a private lawyer. The good news is that there is another option. A legal advocacy group like National Family Solutions can help you represent yourself during divorce and reach a fair settlement. You will work with a case manager who will help you fill out documents, motion the court, submit everything on time, and even give you hints and tips on how you can make a good impression on the judge if you end up having to go back to court.
It’s important that you address the situation as soon as possible and not allow yourself to get too behind on your payments. The worst thing you could do would be to ignore the issue and simply become delinquent due to inability to pay. Not only will you end up in legal hot water, but you will also be depriving your child of the things that he or she needs from you. Contact National Family Solutions today to find out how we can help.
If you find yourself unable to afford your child support payments as you navigate the divorce process, contact us today to see how we can help! Leave your name and number to get a call back, or call us directly at 800-608-5882