What Can I Do If I Can't Afford Child Support?

The child support system is designed to provide children with the financial support required to help them thrive and ensure they are taken care of. However, one of the most common issues that come up after a divorce judgment has been entered is that the noncustodial parent can no longer to make the monthly child support payments.

When a parent fails to pay child support, he/she can find him/herself in contempt of court, facing consequences such as wage garnishments, property liens, and even jail time. Fortunately, there are several resources available for parents experiencing this type of situation.

Request a Payment Modification

In order to modify child support in California, the noncustodial parent must experience a "significant change in circumstances" that results in great financial loss.

The following are common changes in circumstances that are sufficient for modification:

  • Getting fired or being laid off from a job
  • Substantial changes in income
  • Expensive medical bills
  • Disability
  • The birth of another child
  • Unforeseen additional costs of raising a child

First, reach out to the Office of Child Support Enforcement that originally issued the order. In a legal document, you must state how your circumstances significantly changed and provide other financial information to prove your case.

If you have a legitimate claim, the Department will figure out a payment plan which matches your circumstances.

Attempt to Reach an Agreement with the Other Parent

Open communication can reduce tension and build trust in regards to making child support payments.

No matter how amicable or hostile your relationship is with your ex, it is critical to speak openly with him/her about your financial situation. You can try to resolve the issue informally without litigation.

If you cannot reach an agreement with your ex, consider alternative methods to resolve disputes, such as family law mediation. A mediator can help you work through your differences and determine terms that both parties can agree with.

Go to Court

If mediation doesn't work out, then filing a post-judgment modification action in the family court is the only way. Collect evidence like pay stubs and living expenses to support your case.

If you are interested in modifying your current child support order in Murrieta, contact Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich and request a free consultation with our experienced family law attorney today.


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