A DO’s and DON’Ts guide to common situations that occur after a party with a child support obligation loses their job or is forced to take a substantial pay cut.

In today’s economy, there is no job security. But what do you do when you lose your job or take a substantial pay cut, and still have a child support obligation?

1) DO: Consult an Attorney

Each case is unique, and a competent family law attorney should be able to give you a better understanding of your legal options and next steps. Many attorneys offer free initial consultations, which can give you an idea of the cost of the modification as compared to the benefits you will receive from it.

2) DON’T: Do Nothing

The worst thing you can do in this situation is ignore the problem. Each time you do not make a court-ordered child support payment, you are in violation of a court order. You can be found in contempt, and even incarcerated, if the judge finds you have the ability to pay and willfully fail to pay. Each payment you miss (or do not pay in full) gets added together and creates “arrears,” which are child support debts that you are ultimately responsible for paying. While some judges understand financial problems, there are specific procedures that must be followed to change your support obligations.

3) DO: File for a Modification of Child Support

If you have lost your job, or have experienced a substantial change in circumstances, you may benefit from filing for a Modification of Child Support. Depending on your unique situation, you may be entitled to a reduction or even abatement of child support.

4) DON’T: Give up on Seeking Employment

If you have lost your job, it is important to show the court that you are trying to become gainfully employed again. Judges hate to see parents with obligations willfully unemployed. It is important to assess your skills and attempt to become employed as soon as possible.

5) DO: Take your Child Support Obligation Seriously

Your child support obligation is arguably the most important financial obligation you have. If the judge finds that you willfully fail to pay child support when you have the ability to pay, you can be found in contempt of court, assessed fines and fees, and even put in jail.

6) DO: Act Now

The sooner you file for a modification, the sooner you can be granted relief. If you have experienced a substantial change in circumstances, such as the loss of your job, or a significant reduction in salary, you should contact a licensed attorney in your state today to assess your legal options and next steps.

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Article Originally Published Mar 07, 2011.

This Legal Guide is NOT LEGAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied on to make any legal or medical or other major decisions. If you have any specific questions or inquiries regarding any of this information, you should consult with an attorney licensed in your state.