Do I Have To Pay Child Support If I Have No Income?

Posted on March 20, 2017 03:34pm
Do I Have To Pay Child Support If I Have No Income?

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 child’s needs.

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 to enforce child support. 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 your options.

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 child support page for more information.
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