A job loss is usually a traumatic blow, especially if you are supporting a family or are paying child support. Such a loss will affect an entire family, even if you are divorced.
Child Support Obligations
A lack of employment does not relieve anyone from the obligations of making child support payments. Your child is dependent on these payments. In the State of Florida, you need to contact the Child Support Program very quickly. While you will still be obligated to make payments, these monthly payments might be adjusted if your current circumstances warrant it.
Child Support Modification
If your income has dropped considerably or if you have lost all income, you might be eligible to have the support amount modified by the court. This necessitates filing a motion with supporting documentation that proves the change in income (such as pay stubs or employer verification of job loss). Only after reviewing these documents will a court decide whether child support payment should be modified. Deliberately working fewer hours to lower your income does not qualify for a support modification.
To be eligible for a modification of support payments, the job loss must be involuntary (you can’t just quit or act in a manner that will get you fired), substantial (the loss of income must be serious), and permanent (there is no new job waiting on the horizon).
What to Do in the Event Of a Job Loss
If you lose your job and can work or train for new employment, the court will likely:
- Expect that you actively look for work
- Demand filed reports evidencing your job search
- Want notification of new employment and income when such circumstances happen.
- Allow training for new job skills if available.
If you are paying child support and lose your job, it is advisable that you contact a Florida family law attorney on the best way to proceed. Acting contrary to court orders can have serious consequences.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Job Loss
Here are some hints as to what you should do if you lose your job while owing child support payments:
- Do hire an attorney. A professional family law attorney can guide your steps while keeping you within the laws of the State of Florida. Most initial legal consultations are free.
- Don’t expect the situation to resolve itself. Every child support payment not made is a breach of a court order. Deliberately not making child support payments can have you placed in contempt of court or even in jail. It’s a serious matter, and the payment obligation won’t disappear, even if your bank balance is precarious.
- Do know that the court will understand a change of circumstances, but you are obligated to file a motion to inform the court thereof. It might well consider modifying the amount due, at least temporarily.
- Do actively seek employment, even if it is something temporary until something more appropriate arises. This could be a good time to update your skills and job opportunities.
- Do be serious about your child support responsibilities. If you are deliberately withholding or delaying agree-upon payments while you can make them, the court can fine or jail you.
- Do be aware that the court uses your imputed income when calculating child support payments. Imputed income is not the amount of your paycheck. It includes fringe benefits such as housing allocation, free meals, free use of a company car, etc. These benefits have value and the court will treat them as such. In addition, a non-custodial parent may report a lower than actual income to receive lower support payment obligations. The court will consider what said parent could have earned if working at full potential and use that number as the imputed income. This is the amount that will be used to calculate support responsibilities, although if the parent is making an honest effort to find a better job, the court may be more lenient.
In the State of Florida, the loss of a job does not end your child support obligations. However, with the help of a family law attorney, it is possible to adjust and lower those payments until circumstances improve. The courts are willing to work with an unemployed parent, but the parent must act in good faith and make every effort to make at least minimum payments.
The legal process can get difficult, which is why we always recommend that you seek the assistance of counsel; or at least have a consultation. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today to review the issues of your case, the legal options you may have, and certain rights that pertain to your unique situation.
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