While no two families are exactly alike, all parents share an obligation to provide for their children. The child support system is used to let each parent know their obligation to their children, and to ensure that each parent does their part in supporting their children’s growth and development.
Child support payments are calculated using a variety of factors to make sure that both parents are contributing to the wellbeing of their child. This is important, as it ensures that the child can be properly fed, dressed, and cared for. Arizona uses a standard formula to calculate child support payments and a key component of that formula is the adjusted gross income of each parent. But what happens to your child support payments when you lose your job?
Do I Still Owe Child Support if I Lose My Job?
You are obligated to make your child support payments as set forth in your child support Order. The amount you have to pay may in fact be based upon the income that you make but the amount doesn’t suddenly change when you lose your job.
If you lose your job, you are still required to make your full child support payments according to Arizona law.
There can be many negative consequences for failing to make your child support payments regardless of the reason that you are not making payments.
What Happens if I Can’t Make My Child Support Payments?
If you fail to make your regular child support payments, you could accrue arrears and interest on the payments. Interest on child support payments quickly accumulates and can lead to a much larger balance to be paid off in the future. While this in itself can present a problem, it is only one of the many consequences that can arise from a failure to pay your child support.
There can also be criminal consequences for a failure to pay your child support. In Arizona, failure of a parent to provide for a child is a criminal offense. As the purpose of child support is to provide for your child, a failure to pay your child support obligation can be a failure of a parent to provide for a child. Depending on the amount of unpaid child support you have accumulated, you may be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony.
If the Court decides that your unpaid child support is a misdemeanor offense, you may be charged a fine of up to $2,500 and can be sentenced to six months in jail. If your unpaid child support amounts to a felony, the Court may charge you with a class VI felony and sentence you to eighteen months in jail. These criminal charges can be difficult for anyone, but may be especially devastating while facing unemployment.
Child support could also be taken from your unemployment insurance benefits. When this happens the Arizona Department of Economic Security, Division of Child Support Services may take up to fifty percent of your unemployment benefits for child support payments. The State will do this automatically to ensure that you are making payments toward your child support obligation. This can cause further financial stress as unemployment benefits do not factor in expenses such as child support, and no further benefits are given to account for child support obligations.
What Should I Do if I Lose My Job and Won’t be Able to Make Child Support Payments?
In the event that you lose your job, you still have to make your child support payments to meet your obligation to your child. If you are receiving unemployment benefits, all or some of your child support payments will be automatically deducted from your benefits. Between losing your job and obtaining unemployment benefits, it isn’t a good idea to simply ignore your child support obligation while you wait for unemployment benefits or for a new job.
The first thing you should do is inform your local child support office that you have lost your job. Doing this will create a record to show that you immediately took action to inform the proper authorities about your situation. This proactive approach is better than avoiding your payments and waiting for the State to take action against you for your obligation. This will show that you are taking your responsibility seriously, and that you are making the necessary efforts to make your payments.
While you are on this call, it is a good idea to ask any and all questions you may have to gather information about your situation. Ask about the options that you have and about the different scenarios that you anticipate might happen. The more information you are able to gather, the more prepared you will feel in approaching this situation. Unfortunately, the child support office will not be able to stop your child support obligation even if they are aware of your current circumstance.
The way to change the amount of your child support obligation is to petition the Court for a modification of the original support order. In Arizona a support order can be changed by proving that your circumstances are substantially different (and will continue to be substantially different for some time) from when the agreement was first put into place. Losing a job or getting a new job with a significantly higher or lower salary can often be enough for the Court to change your child support obligation. If you and your child’s other parent have a positive relationship, they may also agree to lower the amount of child support that you are obligated to pay. An agreement to modify the child support payment can be submitted to the Judge, who can sign off on the agreement and issue it as a Court Order.
Getting the child support agreement changed will affect payments going forward but any previously owed payments are still owed at their original rate. Typically your payments will change on the first of the following month but you could try to convince the court that you have a good cause to have the change go into effect even sooner. Even in this case, the court will be unable to change the amount previously owed (even if it seems like too much for you to handle). In some cases, your child’s other parent may choose to waive your past due child support obligation.
Child Support is Confusing, Can You Help Me Understand My Support Agreement?
Here at Arizona Family Law Attorneys we fully understand that the laws and regulations surrounding child support can be incredibly confusing. After all, it’s our business to read, understand and keep up with any and all of the always evolving laws that affect families within our fine state.
That’s why we know we’ll be able to help. We have not only the experience you’ll need to sort through your agreements, but the knowledge of how to navigate these tough situations, how to show the courts that your circumstances have changed and much more. If you are having problems with child support then give us a call at (480) 268-9393 to see how we can help you sort through the specifics of your case.