I Can’t Pay My Child Support. What Do I Do?

Piggy Bank

One of the more common questions I field for both new and former clients is what can be done during a financial crisis to address child support. It can be daunting enough to deal with a sudden job loss, serious illness, ailing parent who needs care, or any other number of situations where there is a critical change and your cash-flow is impacted. Thoughts about maintaining your mortgage or rent, affording groceries, and having enough money to buy gasoline may dominate your every-day thoughts. To have to then consider how to keep making your court-ordered child support payments can make a difficult situation seem overwhelming. However, you should know that you may have options and that you should act quickly.

The first opportunity you have, consider contacting an attorney to discuss your situation. The law tends to afford flexibility when circumstances change, and you may be able to seek that a judge decrease or temporarily stop your child support payments. It is important to consider that judges can modify child support payments at any time if the legal requirements are met to do so. Specifically, judges look to a specific section of the law, the  Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act: 750 ILCS 5/505. Even if you were never married, this law is what the court will look to if you are asking that your child support payment be changed.

One of the key factors that a judge considers, is whether there has been a substantial change in circumstances. This is a term of art, meaning it is up for interpretation and is something that attorneys will argue over and ultimately it is left to a Judge to decide if this requirement has been met. However, judges may likely look to a number of factors when considering whether or not to decrease your child support payment, including but not limited to the cause of the decrease in income or financial crisis, the needs of the child or children, how temporary the financial crisis may be, other sources of income, and your efforts to meet your support obligation.

If you or a loved one are experiencing a financial crisis, do reach out for guidance. It is important to consider that a judge cannot do anything until you have filed something asking the court for relief. And, whether your financial crisis occurred a month or six months before you filed for that relief, the judge may not able to change your child support obligation going any further back than the date you filed asking the court for specific relief.

It is also worth considering that past-due, court-ordered child support can accrue interest at 9% per annum and the State of Illinois may have the ability to take certain actions such as seizing a tax refund, levying a bank account, and even suspending a driver’s license for the non-payment of child support. Courts also have the power to address the non-payment of child support if the other parent of your child files something asking to enforce the child support obligation. In effect, the longer you wait the more it may worsen your situation. So, during a difficult and potentially overwhelming time, the help of a professional may be critical and acting quickly may make all of the difference.

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