Lawmakers enacted child support laws to ensure that even when two parents are not married or living together, their children still have the financial support they need to grow and thrive. However, this system is not without flaws. One problem is that courts sometimes assign child support payments that a parent cannot afford or their financial situation changes so that they can no longer afford the payments that they used to make.
In this situation, a parent might be facing a contempt of court and other consequences, such as garnishment of paycheck, property liens, loss of California driver's license, seizure of tax return, jail time, and more.
Regardless of your current relationship with your spouse, you need be honest with them about your financial situation. Clearly, this type of open communication in not legally required, but it could go a long way in avoiding a legal battle down the road over late child support payments.
Let you spouse know how your financial situation has changed and that you are no longer able to afford the current payments. Also, let them know you need to change a child support order by requesting a modification. This type of honest communication can reduce tension and build trust for making future payments.
Parents have options and can often take certain actions to help make their child support payments more affordable with the assistance of a knowledgeable Los Angeles family law attorney.
If the court ordered you to appear for failure to pay child support, then you need to appear on that date. If you miss the court date, then you will be in a much worst situation and the court will probably issue a warrant for your arrest.
To give readers a better understanding on what steps to take if you are unable to afford child support payments, our California divorce attorneys are providing an overview below.
When Do Courts Allow Requests for Child Support Modifications?
When child support payments are determined, the court expects that they will be permanent. However, they do realize that sometimes circumstances change. If they do, you are allowed to ask the court for a child support modification. Reasons for a modification include:
- The income of either parent changes
- One parent has lost his or her job
- One parent has been incarcerated
- One parent had another child from another relationship
- There have been substantial changes in how much time the child in the case spends with each parent
- The needs of the children may have changed, and there may be more (or less) costs for things like child care, health care, or education
- There are changes in the factors that are used to calculate child support payments
Request a Child Support Payment Modification
If you have a change of circumstances, such as losing your job, and now you can't make court-ordered child support payments, then you need to communicate with the agency who issued the child support order.
To formally request a modification to your child support order, you will need to contact the Office of Child Support Enforcement that issued your original child support order.
Visit the California Department of Child Support Services online to find the contact information for your local agency and inform them that your financial situation has changed. You can also visit Los Angeles County Child Support Services for an overview to modify your child support order.
You will need to provide updated information about your income and savings as well as complete paperwork explaining what circumstances changed that made your child support payments unaffordable.You will need to complete an Income and Expense Declaration (Form-FL150).
The chances of your request being approved are high if you can supply documentation supporting the reason for the change request. Your Los Angeles family law lawyer can help you complete the paperwork and provide proof of your changes.
If your request is accepted, the agency will work with you to create a new child support payment plan that is affordable. Receiving lower child support payments is better than receiving no payments at all in the eyes of the state.
Consequences of Unpaid Child Support
The court takes child support orders very seriously. They expect that parents who pay child support will make these payments a priority; after all, it is to support their own children. If you do not make your child support payments as ordered by the judge, you can face several consequences, such as:
- Property liens
- Wage garnishment
- Seizure of tax refunds
- Societal stigmas
If you cannot make your child support payments, you need to take action to get them changed. Doing nothing and not paying what you were ordered to by the court will quickly make your life more difficult. Your family law attorney in Los Angeles can do more to help you before you begin missing payments then after.
Going to Court for Non-Payment
Missing child support payments will likely lead to an order for you to appear in court. If you receive such an order, you need to show up.
If you do not, the court can issue a warrant for your arrest. When you go to court, you will have the opportunity to show why you could not make your child support payments. If you have already retained an attorney, they can and should appear in court with you.
At this hearing, the judge can review any documentation you have and determine if your child support payments can be changed. You should bring:
Proof of income post-child support order (including tax returns and pay stubs)
- A list of employers
- A list of places you've looked for work if you're unemployed
- Essential living expenses you must pay
- A note from your doctor if you cannot work due to a disability
Get Help to Afford Your Child Support Payments
Many child support problems happen when a parent falls behind on payments because of circumstances beyond their control, such as losing their job, medical emergency, or they simply don't make enough income to handle payments every month.
It might seem reasonable to just ask your spouse for an informal agreement to resolve issue, but this is not the right step to take. Child support payments are court-ordered for a reason and any modifications must be approved by the family law court.
The judge will consider income, age and earning capacity to decide exactly how much child support to award. If there are significant changes, then the family court judge has the discretion to adjust monthly child support payments.
If you are unable to make your child support payments, you may feel like ignoring the problem, hoping it will go away. This will only lead to more difficult circumstances in your life.
Instead, reach out to a trusted family law lawyer in Los Angeles who can help you modify your child support payments and represent you in court if you need to appear. Call our office or use the online contact form to schedule your child support consultation.
Furman & Zavatsky are Los Angeles family law and divorce lawyers located in the San Fernando Valley at 15821 Ventura Blvd #690 Encino, CA 91436. Contact us for a free case evaluation at (818) 528-3471.