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What happens when you can’t pay child support?

As a parent, you likely want to make sure that your child has access to the supplies and care that they need. Child support can help take care of your kids, but that doesn’t mean it is always possible to make those payments.

There are several reasons why your child support agreement might not be realistic anymore. You may face the loss of your job, a significant pay cut, decreased income in retirement or a highly expensive medical issue. Events like these might be out of your control, but you do have options to avoid support violations.

First, remember that being unable to pay does not make you a deadbeat parent. Your ex could accuse you of lying about what you can afford because they aren’t fully aware of your situation. Although some divorcees try to punish their ex by refusing support, many people simply don’t have enough to give.

However, this is not an excuse to miss payments entirely. Skipping payments can get you in trouble with the law, accumulate debt and possibly put you in jail. Instead, you can explain your situation in court.

Even if the other parent agrees to accept a lower amount of support, you will have to protect yourself from disputes by legally changing your agreement. Find out if you could be eligible for a child support modification. This can lower the amount you need to pay based on your situation.

For example, you could afford to pay much less if you were laid off from your previous job and had to take a low-paying position after several weeks in unemployment. Instead of paying the full amount of the initial agreement, a court may re-calculate and rule that you only need to pay two-thirds of the sum without penalty.

Child support is not meant to punish you. Rather, the money provides financial security for your child. If you find yourself unable to scrape together enough for the full payment, child support modifications may offer relief.

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