Exploring Social Security Cases and Outcomes

What To Do If You Cannot Afford Child Support

by Marie Caldwell

What do you do if you cannot (genuinely) afford paying child support? If you wish to reduce the payments, then you should know that there are several options you can take to make it legal. The route you take depends on whether the other parent concurs with your assessment that you cannot afford the payments.

If the other parent doesn't agree with you, then your only course of action is to:

Petition the Court for an Amendment

If you can prove that you cannot afford the child support payments, then you should petition the court for a reduction. Cite your need for the amendment as "undue hardship," which means that making the payments exposes you to serious economic difficulties.

In order to approve your petition, the court will consider two main issues:

  • Your case – This involves how and why you cannot pay the required amount. Possible reasons include legal duty to support another person (for example a child with another person), high costs of accessing your child or high debts incurred before your marriage dissolution.
  • Your standard of living – you are likely to get the nod for lower payments if your standard of living is lower than the standing of living in the receiving household.

If both of you agree that you cannot afford the specified child support, then you don't have to go to court to reduce the payments. You can amend the payment in these two ways:

Drawing Up a Minutes of Settlement

One option take is to draw up a Minutes of Settlement with the other parent. Note that this is only possible if you were paying child support based on a court order. In the Minutes of Settlement document, you include the major details of the original court order that you were supposed to follow. You also need to explain why you wish to reduce the payments, and by how much. If you wish, you may then file the document with the court, but it isn't a legal requirement.

Amending the Separation Agreement

If you agreed on your child support payments using collaboration law, and you did not go to court, then it means you have an existing Separation Agreement. In this case, all you have to do is to amend the agreement with your spouse. Just like in the case of drawing up Minutes of Settlement, you first have to outline the original agreement before specifying by how much you wish to vary the payments. You also have to support your need for the reduction. The amendment may then be attached to the original document and then filed in court.

Note that you should never stop paying for child support until you make the amendments. Even if you have to struggle to pay, do it until you get the other parent's consent or a court order allowing a reduction. For more information, contact a family law firm (such as Valerie Family Law).