unemployed man hanging his head

Unemployment and Child Support

Unemployment is a scary situation for anyone to face. Unfortunately, it has affected millions of Americans over the past year and a half. If you are a divorced parent who either pays or receives child support, unemployment presents special challenges.

Whether on the giving or the receiving end of child support, it’s vital to understand how unemployment affects child support calculations. In this article, we want to help answer some frequently asked questions on this topic, including:

  • Do I still have to pay child support if I become unemployed?
  • Will my child support calculation change automatically if I lose my job or become unemployed?
  • If I receive unemployment benefits, will those be factored as income into my child support calculation?

These same questions could also be asked from the perspective of the parent on the receiving end of the child support.

The divorce and child custody attorneys at Joseph, Hollander & Craft hope to alleviate some of the tension associated with child support proceedings by shedding light on these important issues and answering several frequently asked questions below.

How does child support work?

Kansas law requires that both parents financially support their children. When the parents decide to obtain a divorce, the court may order one parent, typically the nonresidential parent or the parent with less custody, to pay child support to the other. The child support is to be used to support only the child financially.

When deciding whether child support should be applied and the amount to be paid, the court applies complex guidelines. Once child support is ordered, the parent paying child support must follow the court’s ruling and make timely payments as scheduled.

What happens if I don’t pay child support?

If the parent required to pay child support does not pay, then they are deemed non-compliant and are in arrears (i.e., unpaid child support). A parent who is non-complaint may then be subject to sanctions or be found in contempt of court. Sanctions may include withholding the non-compliant parent’s income, garnishing bank accounts, or creating a lien on personal property, such as vehicles or boats. In more severe cases, the court may also subject the non-compliant parent to jail time and/or fines. It is important for the custodial parent during this time to continue visitation of the children with the non-compliant parent, even if they are failing to pay child support. 

In general, once the child support order is issued, the child support can only be changed if one of the parties files for a modification. In Kansas, child support may also cease when the child reaches the age of majority, 18 years old. However, if the child turns 18 while still in high school, then the child support automatically continues until the end of the school year.

If my income changes, will child support change automatically?

After an order has been issued finalizing child support, the only way to reduce or change the child support amount is to file a motion with the court to request modification of the order. If the modification is filed within three years of the previous child support order or modification, then the court will only modify it if there is a showing of a material change in circumstances.

A material change in circumstances usually requires the parent seeking the modification to show that the change in income would result in a ten percent adjustment of the child support. Therefore, it is important to allege a significant change in income when filing a motion for modification of child support. If you are filing a motion that is past three years from the previous modification or order, then a showing of a material change in income is not required. 

If I become unemployed do I still have to pay child support? If my ex or former partner is now unemployed do they still have to pay child support?

Simply put, yes. Becoming unemployed does not change your or an ex/former partner’s obligation to pay child support. When calculating child support for an unemployed parent, the court will base its calculation on the unemployed parent’s imputed income rather than their actual income.

The court typically will determine imputed income by what the parent could have earned if they were working based on their employment history, job skills, past earnings, current opportunities for employment in the area, and their education. Typically this computes to the average minimum wage in that given area. 

Child support is then calculated and ordered based on the supporting parent’s imputed income. If the parent does not want imputed income to be applied in determining child support, the parent will need to provide evidence to contest its application, such as showing they have attempted to retain employment through going to interviews or are maintaining contact with an unemployment agency.

Need Help With Your Divorce or Child Support Matter? We Are Here to Help.

Divorce is a complex domestic legal matter that can often tie into other areas of our lives including our jobs and families. Having an experienced attorney who knows how to navigate foreseen or unforeseen unemployment and child support matters will not only ease the process, but ensure you are adequately represented.

The family law attorneys at Joseph, Hollander & Craft are available to help you with your child support and divorce matters. Please reach out for a consultation today.