Help for dads paying child support or alimony after a job loss

Frequently, finances change for divorced dads after a support order is settled, leaving him unable to pay the required child support and/or alimony. Many times, the change in finances is due to the loss of a job.

There are ways you can help yourself in this situation as long as you do everything in your power to not skirt your legal responsibilities. Follow this advice on how to handle child support or alimony payments after the loss of your job or a significant portion of your income. 


Do file for a downward modification

Immediately file in court for a downward modification of support, because the court cannot grant relief prior to your filing.This is an application where you ask the court to reduce the amount of your court ordered payment . you must allege a “change of circumstance” through “no fault of your own” which led to the reduced financial ability. It cannot be a self imposed hardship.

Do hire a family law attorney

There are legal requirements to proving a case for downward modification, and if you do it yourself and fail to meet your burden, you cannot redo it. This is not a place to save money by trying to wing it on your own. Do not think a court will look poorly upon you for hiring an attorney to see that it is done right. 

Do get your ex-spouse’s agreement in writing

If your spouse agrees to lower the support, get it in writing, signed, and notarized, and then present it to court to make it a court order. The document should refer to the original court order and agreement, and specifically state the new amount agreed to be paid instead of the original court-ordered amount, and the effective date of the agreement.

Do pay something reasonable instead of nothing

Knowing the child support percentages in ny pay what you should pay on the amount you now are earning. IF you are receiving unemployment pay the percentage of that if that is all your income. Pay by check for a record and if you pay by cash make sure you receive back a signed receipt as proof of payment.

Do ask to adjust the pro rata obligations for add on expenses

These include, but are not limited to, medical insurance, child care, school fees, extra-curricular activity fees, etc. In other words, these are “add on” expenses above basic child support the court order requires you to contribute to, based upon the percentage of your income to the combined income of you and the other parent. 

Do keep track of all your efforts to be re-employed

These efforts for re-employment must also be at the highest income possible. The courts will need to be shown these efforts. This includes contacts to head hunters; resumes and cover letters sent out; dates, times, and locations of job interviews; web sites and literature in which employment opportunities posted are reviewed. Keep a journal with documentation so you can later tell the court all your efforts and show documentation of those efforts. 


Do not stop paying

Ultimately you will owe everything not paid. A money judgment will be issued for what you owe that can be enforced causing a levy on your assets or a garnishment on your income.

Do not make a verbal agreement with your ex-spouse

As mentioned above, it’s important to talk to your ex-spouse about your unemployment, and to come up with an agreement to pay less in monthly support. However, a verbal agreement is in no way official, it is not enforceable or provable, and, ultimately, she will get all the back money owed if you simply rely on a verbal agreement.

Do not think hiring a lawyer will hurt your application process

You can’t go into the application process thinking, ‘If I had the money for a lawyer, the court will think I should be paying the support.” No, the courts understand you do not have the expertise to present the case. Hire a lawyer to help you in the process, so you can be granted an affordable monthly child support and/or alimony payment.

Do not hire a lawyer unfamiliar with these applications

They will not know how to effectively obtain the relief you need. While the desire to hire someone who may be inexperienced, but cheaper than an experienced attorney seems attractive. But the truth is, the most costly representation is poor-quality representation that does not get you the relief or result you seek.

Do not fail to file for unemployment benefits

Obtaining unemployment is some proof that you lost your job through no intentional fault of your own, and that you did not therefore cause your hardship. Doing this will help you get the relief you need.

Do not voluntarily quit a job unless you are forced out

Unless you have another job that is better and will still support you and your family in terms of affording the monthly child support and/or alimony payments, don’t quit your job and become unemployed. And if you are, for some reason, forced out of your job, try to obtain proof you were forced out. The court needs to see that your loss of employment is not self-imposed.

Jumping cartoon

If you lose your job, you cannot just stop paying. Without following the proper procedures, in the end, you will be found to owe all the money which you did not pay in child support and/or alimony. You must file an application in court with the help of a lawyer, experienced in these applications, in order to reduce your support to an agreeable monthly amount until you can reach an appropriate employment status once again.

More expert advice about Money and Divorce

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Sari M. Friedman, P.C.Long Island Divorce Attorney

Sari M. Friedman has over 30 years of legal experience and has dedicated her career to protecting families throughout New York who are being torn apart by a divorce or who need experienced assistance with a legal matter of any kind. Sari Friedma...

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