If you are going through a divorce and have children, you and your spouse
will need to work out a child support arrangement, including who has to
pay and how much the monthly obligation will be.
However, what if you don’t have a source of income and can’t
afford child support? Will you still be required to make a monthly child
support payment? The answer is usually yes. Read on to learn how this
is decided and what you can do about it.
How is child support determined?
Child support is determined based on a variety of factors, including how
much income each parent earns from a variety of sources, including salary
or wages, commissions, bonuses, Social Security benefits, interest, and
more. If a parent does not have a source of income, the court may impute
income based on a prior work history and/or the parent’s potential
earning capacity. (“Impute” means they estimate what you should
reasonably be expected to be able to earn and how easily a job could be found.)
For example, if a parent is having career trouble and currently is not
employed, the court may look at the parent’s previous employment
history to determine how much they are capable of earning again in the
future. In other words, your obligation will be partially based on your
ability and opportunity to find similar work, whether inside or outside
of your chosen profession.
Trying to avoid child support
In some cases, a parent may purposefully choose unemployment in order to
attempt to dodge a child support obligation. The courts do not take kindly
to this behavior, and will order child support based on imputed income.
The court’s decision will, above all, consider the child’s
best interests and will order whatever support is necessary to meet the
What if you can’t afford child support?
So what happens if you cannot afford your child support payments? Choosing
not to make them, or
informally arranging a modification with your spouse allowing you to pay what you
can, are both incorrect courses of action. Failing to make timely payments
means that you will accrue an arrearage, which will give your former spouse
the right to file a contempt action. This will cost you even more money
in court fees and litigation costs. Making an informal arrangement means
you are still not fulfilling your legal child support obligations; only
a court-approved child support modification can do that. If you absolutely
cannot afford your payments, you should speak with your attorney to learn
Laws surrounding child support can be complex, which is why it is essential
to retain knowledgeable legal counsel. We invite you to
get in touch with a Washington divorce lawyer
to learn more about your child support obligation and/or a potential modification,
or your rights as the recipient of child support. When you call to request
an initial consultation, we will put you in touch with the attorney best
suited to handle your case. Visit our
page for more information.