You go through divorce. You figure out child custody and child support. Then, a year or two later, you lose your job.

What do you do? Can you stop paying child support because you don’t have an income anymore?

The answer is clear: no.

There are a few reasons why you can’t stop paying child support:

  1. The court order telling you how much to pay doesn’t change when you lose your job.

When you lose your job, the court order doesn’t change. The practical effect of that is when you don’t pay, every month you have a judgment for the child support you didn’t pay. The more you don’t pay the amount ordered, the more judgments against you stack up, and the farther in the hole you get.

For example, if you’re ordered to pay $800 per month and stop paying for six months after losing your job, you’ll have judgments against you for $4800. You’ll have to pay back that $4800 over time, unless you can convince your ex to forgive the debt — good luck with that.

  1. The judgments you accrue can be used against you.

Your ex (or the Utah Office of Recovery Services) can use the judgments we talked about above to garnish your wages or put liens on your property.

By property I mean your house, your car, or they can drain your bank accounts. Anything you own is fair game, even your dog (true story).

  1. If you stop paying and ever want to change custody or parent-time in the future, you’ll have a much harder time of it.

Judges don’t like people who don’t pay child support. They assume they don’t really care about their children much. Keeping that in mind, you can see how not paying would make it difficult to change custody or parent-time with a history of not paying child support.

If I Can’t Stop Paying, What Can I Do?

Since you can’t stop paying child support, you have to deal with the situation differently.

If you’re situation is not temporary (e.g., you’re going to get another job in two or three months), then you will have to go back to the court and request that your child support be lowered. This means you’ll need to file a motion with the court and go to a hearing to discuss your job situation.

Keep in mind that if the court lowers your support, it will be increased when you get a new job.

If your new job pays less than your old one, that’s usually okay.

When taking a lower paying job is not okay is when you purposefully take the job to pay less in child support. That is called voluntary underemployment, and the court doesn’t like it one bit.

Lesson

The lesson to learn here is this: keep paying your child support as ordered until the court, in writing, says you can pay something less.

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