You were ordered to pay child support and can no longer afford to make the same payments as you were. Do stop paying, notify the court, or inform your child’s custodial that you are experiencing a financial hardship right now? Knowing what to do when you can’t afford your child support payments can be confusing and stressful but there are resources available that can help you figure out how to address the issue.
Take for instance, the New York State website. It provides answers to many of the questions you have regarding child support, however, keep in mind it will not provide you with any sort of legal advice. For example, the State website says that if you decide on your own to not pay the full amount of child support you owe, “you will build up an arrears (past-due) balance. To offset arrears, the amount you need to pay will be increased by 50% of your obligation amount.” And if you fail to keep up with the payments the court has ordered you to pay, “you could face a series of enforcement actions.” Some of these might include:
- Having your driver’s license suspended.
- Passport denial.
- Having your income tax refund intercepted.
- Freezing your financial assets.
While choosing to lower your payments on your own without advising the court of your financial circumstances is not the approach you are going to want to take, there are things you can do to potentially get your child support payments reduced. Some of these include:
- Filing a petition with the court to modify your current obligation amount. The State allows parents who are responsible for paying child support to “ask the court to modify [their] current obligation amount [by filing Family Court Form 4-11] based on a “substantial change in circumstances,” or if the order was effective on or after October 13, 2010.” In this case, the order may be modified if:
- Three years have passed since the order took effect, was last modified, or adjusted.
- If your “gross income has changed by 15 percent or more since the order was entered, last modified, or adjusted.”
- You are incarcerated.
- Request that your payments be reduced when your cost of living has increased. The State of New York says that “the amount that you owe for child support may change based on a cost of living adjustment (COLA).” An order may be eligible for COLA when it meets both of the criteria listed below:
- Your child support order is at least two years old.
- “The sum of the average annual percentage change in theConsumer Price Index for Urban Consumers (CPI-U) is equal to or greater than ten (10) percent.”
Important: Custodial parents can also request to have their child support payments increased when their cost of living has gone up.
- Request to have your child support order modified if you lost your job or got a new job that doesn’t pay as much. If you lost your job, NY law requires you to contact your local child support office immediately. If you live in Nassau County, NY, you can call the Child Support Helpline at 1-888-208-4485 or visit the Support Collection Unit at
60 Charles Lindbergh Boulevard, Suite 160
Uniondale, NY 11553-3686
While you can ask that the court review your child support order and request that your payments be reduced or deferred, remember, “job loss does not end your child support obligation, and only a court can change your order.” If you would like the court to review your order and potentially put a temporary stop to your payments, you can file a modification petition in the family court that issued your order. The family law lawyers at The Law Offices of David L. Martin, Esq., P.C. can also assist you with this in the event you would prefer to have a legal representative helping you.
As important as it is for a parent to provide for their children, our circumstances sometimes change, and not for the best. One minute you might be receiving a steady income and the next, you’re jobless. As frustrating as it may be to not be able to meet your monthly child support obligations, there are steps that can be taken so that your payments are put on hold or reduced so that you can get back on your feet and continue providing for your children at a later date. If you would like to speak with one of our family law attorneys in Nassau County, NY about getting your child support payments lowered, contact our office at 516-294-8886.
The Law Offices of David L. Martin, Esq., P.C. is located at:
1415 Kellum Place, Suite 205
Garden City, NY 11430