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Child Support Payments and Unemployment

How the Courts Handle Child Support and Unemployment or Underemployment


Small boy hugging his mother
Thanasis Zovoilis/Moment/Getty Images

Some courts may consider reducing child support payments when a parent is unemployed or underemployed. Additionally, a court may have a difficult time calculating a child support award when a parent is unemployed or underemployed. Here is some information about factors considered in reducing or calculating child support payments due to unemployment and underemployment:

Ways to Calculate Income for Unemployed or Underemployed Parents

Courts may choose two ways to ways to handle child support payments during a parent's unemployment or underemployment. A court may:

  1. Impute income and require payment now
  2. Institute a search for work order and reserve payment for the future

A court will base child support payments on a parent's:

  • Work history
  • Education
  • Minimum wage

Combination of Calculation Methods for Unemployed or Underemployed Parents

Instead of choosing one method of calculating child support for the unemployed or underemployed, a court may:

  • Order a parent to seek work for a specified period of time. If he/she is unsuccessful, then a court will order child support payments to be made based on a minimum support level.
  • Check with employers to discover whether a parent applied for work.
  • Determine whether any employment that is obtained is temporary or permanent, thus calculating a child support payment or reduction.

Documentation to Prove Unemployed or Underemployment Status

Be prepared to present the following proof of unemployment or underemployment. Examples of appropriate documentation that will assist a non-custodial parent in reducing their child support payments are:

  • Paystubs
  • Termination letters
  • Severance package details
  • Log of job search to match former income level

For more information about reducing child support payments due to underemployment or unemployment, please speak with a member of the court's personnel in your state. You may also visit additional resources about child support modifications.

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