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How Can I Pay Child Support If I Am Unemployed?


There may come a time when you can no longer afford your court-ordered child support payments. You may have recently incurred unexpected bills, received a demotion at work, or even lose your job. The unemployment rate in the U.S. was 4.8% in the beginning of 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While this number is lower than in previous years, it is still higher than it was before the recession of 2008. Unemployment can make it impossible to complete support payments on time. Luckily, the family court system in Colorado has options for unemployed parents who cannot afford child support.

File a Motion for a Support Modification

Some parents who cannot afford child support payments will pay less than what they owe until they find another job. Others will work out a deal with their ex-spouse about an unofficial temporary modification. Both of these actions can harm you in the future because failing to pay full amounts can lead to accrued debt, and your ex-spouse filing to put you in contempt of court. An informal agreement does not change your legal obligation. Instead, go to the courts and file a formal child support modification request.

If your income level is significantly lower than it was when the courts created your support agreement, you can request a modification of child support. A judge will look over your current employment situation and decide whether to permit your modification. Download the forms online to request a modification, or contact the Colorado Department of Human Services to request the proper paperwork.

When you file a petition for child support modification, you must tell the courts the amount by which you wish to increase or decrease your payments. Base this amount on the same factors the court used in deciding your original support agreement. This includes both parents’ income levels, the amount of parenting time each parent has, and approximately how much each parent spends on childcare. Use the Colorado child support calculator to come up with an accurate support amount before you submit your modification request.

Work with the Courts on New Terms

Statutory guidelines in Colorado require that your new support amount must be more than 10% lower than your current amount to qualify. If you are recently unemployed, you should definitely meet this criteria. Changes smaller than 10% are not significant enough to warrant a court-ordered modification. You must have undergone a “substantial and continuing” change in income level for the courts to consider your petition. This includes a permanent and significant change in income. Unemployment typically qualifies under these stipulations.

Filing a request for modification immediately after losing your job can protect your rights as a parent, and help you avoid paying accrued support debt. The courts will work with you to come up with a support agreement you can afford until you find another job or start receiving unemployment benefits. Speak with a divorce and child support attorney in Colorado for more information regarding your specific case.

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